2~3 years of the interepidemic period between MERS, SARS, COVID-19, etc.
The dynamic of defeating COVID-19 in Daegu Metropolitan City was the “public-private partnership.”
Necessary to establish an early response system for infectious disease by setting up infectious disease clinics
Weeds grow wild in the backyards, distressing people. So is COVID-19. It has been 11 months since the outbreak of COVID-19, but the virus is still rampant just like the weeds that cannot be pulled out. As the 140th patient in Pyeongtaek carried the disease to about 20 people—including relatives—the public's fear is increasing recently. However, we have already shown the successful prevention and control of COVID-19 in Daegu. Hence, we looked back at its victorious case. <Editor’s Note>
Der Spiegel, a German weekly news magazine, published an article titled “South Korea’s successful coronavirus strategy: national testing.” The news had introduced successful COVID-19 prevention and control by Daegu and analyzed the success factor, stating, “If they had not done the total inspection, Korea would have become somewhat like the States.”
■Introduced innovative systems such as drive-through testing
The success factor of COVID-19 disinfection management in Daegu was the public-private partnership. The problem was that when the 31st super spreader appeared, the city was not prepared for a proper prevention and control system compared to now. However, it immediately called on a role distribution for situation settlement and for the prevention of retransmission by gathering a group of professionals from each related field.
First, Daegu was able to suppress the spread of the virus in the early stage by implementing medical platforms such as a drive-thru screening station and a residential treatment center. Followed by the advice from Prof. Jin-yong Kim (Dep. of infectious diseases, Incheon Medical Center) on February 21, the city had installed the world’s first drive-thru screening station in Kyungpook National University Chilgok Hospital on the 23rd and innovatively improved the process of sample collection and diagnosis. Also, the world’s first residential treatment center was established as the mediation role that isolates mild cases, decreasing the fatality of high-risk patients who wait for hospitalization.
Medicity (Medicity Daegu), a local healthcare partner, supported the onsite medical teams who were fighting against the virus with medical aids such as medical staff and equipment, required sickbeds, masks, etc. It also played the role of private health and medical platform by mediating the stances of the city and medical institutions.
“At that moment, there were many difficulties on the ground such as limited sickbeds and available medical staff—but with the effort of the city, Medicity, and the citizens—the situation quickly settled down. It’s necessary to stay alert as the COVID-19 epidemic has not come to an end,” Mayor Young-jin Kwon of Daegu Metropolitan City said.
■Medicity, playing the role of a private medical platform
Daegu wisely surmounted COVID-19. Indeed, it recorded “zero” new case within a week (11.03.2020). This was possible through the citizen’s voluntary social distancing, fast and accurate testing, sickbeds specialized for treatment, and the establishment of the residential treatment center, and ensured medical manpower.
It’s not that Daegu was successful in preventing and controlling the viral infection from the very beginning. This was because there was a difference in opinions between the city that centered the safety of citizens above anything and the medical institutions at the site that worried a great deal of loss if turn into hospitals dedicated to COVID-19. Here, Medicity had mediated between the two sides and tried its best for the entire medical communities to take early action in unison.
On behalf of the medical community in Daegu, Medicity had issued a public appeal against the virus to all citizens and implored them to comply with the quarantine guidelines. It also strongly requested the government to provide nationwide support for active and efficient prevention and control to be carried out.
"Although from 10 private to dedicated hospitals were fully committed, the government’s indolent action was very disappointing," Soon-do Cha, the chairman of Medicity emphasized. "If COVID-19 spreads with flu—as much as it's uncertain whether medical personnel in Daegu can fight against the infectious disease as last time—the government must come up with realistic supportive measures as soon as possible."
■Taking an early response through hospitals dedicated to infectious diseases
As a result of these efforts, Daegu successfully dealt with the epidemic. Indeed, the public opinion poll conducted by the city—targeted at 10,008 citizens over the age of 18—showed 71.8 percent of positive views on its actions against COVID-19 prevention and control.
The danger of COVID-19 is not over yet. In response, Daegu and the Medicity are firmly urging the government to establish hospitals dedicated to infectious diseases. Such establishment is crucial not only for COVID-19 but also for taking early measures against infectious diseases such as MERS and SARS.
"Now is the time to build a response system for future infectious diseases as well as COVID-19," Chairman Cha stated. "Since infectious diseases are occurring every two to three years, we need to establish such a system to prevent the spread from the early stages."