AMBASSADOR of South Korea to the Philippines Han Dong-man recently disclosed his country’s strategies—including the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) as well as information and communication technology (ICT)—that were instrumental in flattening the curve of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections without enforcing lockdowns.
“In a globalized world, viruses know no borders. The situation was very challenging in the beginning,” Han said in an interview.
The envoy said that under the principle of “T.R.U.S.T.:” Transparency, Robust Screening and Quarantine, Unique but Universally Applicable, Strict Control and Treatment, the Korean government “focused on providing information transparently to the public, identifying quickly those who were infected with Covid-19 by facilitating prompt diagnostic tests for whoever wished to [be tested], implementing quick quarantine measures for those infected with the virus, efficient tracing of people potentially exposed to risk of infection, and conducting active treatment of Covid-19 patients.”
He also cited the importance of “cooperation from the general public, who exercised vigilance such as social distancing, wearing masks, [and] voluntarily going through Covid-19 diagnostic tests even without visible symptoms.”
The Korean diplomat disclosed that strict implementation of these strategies “helped [South] Korea flatten the curve of new Covid-19 cases without having to resort to any lockdowns.”
“AS Covid-19 spread and more people got infected,” the envoy explained, “many people in [my country] began to think of various creative ways to speed up the diagnostic testing, while reducing health risks for front-line health-care workers [that] led to the adoption of the so-called Drive-Thru Covid-19 testing stations and Walk-Thru Covid-19 testing booths in Korea.”
Han revealed that the “Drive-Thru” testing method significantly enhanced access of the general public to Covid-19 tests while allowing health-care workers to minimize any risks of infection by conducting the tests in a large, open space.
On the other hand, he said “Walk-Thru” testing booths further enhanced the access to Covid-19 tests “for the wider public by making it easy for people who don’t drive, to just walk to a testing booth and get the virus test done within five minutes.”
“For medics and health-care workers, both these…testing methods provided better protection, while enabling them to conserve scarce supplies such as personal protective equipment and reduce medical waste as well,” the ambassador added.
He said the Korean government also boosted its efforts to contain the deadly virus by adopting the “Speedy, Safe and Accurate” approach, also dubbed as “3Ts,” or “Test, Trace and Treat,” in combating the virus.
AI, ICT utilized
HAN said the full cooperation of the private sector had led to the creation of effective “tracing” and “treatment” methods “using various ICT technologies.”
“For example, [a mobile tracing] application was developed to monitor the movement of infected individuals and to trace people potentially exposed to the risks of Covid-19 infection, while it made sure that their personal information is not made public,” Han shared. “Any concerns about the possible infringement of citizens’ rights to privacy are addressed by the relevant Personal Information Protection Act in Korea, which stipulates that all personal information should be destroyed 14 days after the incubation period.”
“There is a wide consensus and understanding in Korea that the purpose of such travel charts of infected individuals is to understand the movement of the [Covid-19] host,” he added.
The use of AI and ICT, the envoy said, greatly enhanced prevention efforts and treatment of infected patients. He however cautioned that with the pandemic still much around and no vaccine available, “everyone must continue to stay vigilant until a vaccine is developed to address the pandemic…”
The Korean government, Han explained, is committed to the open, transparent and democratic approach in addressing Covid-19 and will continue to share its experiences and information around the world, including the Philippines, which he cited helped South Korea during the Korean War.
During the Korean War that started on June 25, 1950, the Philippines was the first Asian country which sent 7,420 combat troops. They helped protect South Korea until 1955, to which the Korean government is very much grateful to this day.
“The Philippines is [our] long-standing ally,” Han declared. Ben Cal/PNA
Image credits: PNA