Koreans are less polite than the Chinese

Coronavirus - South Korea also contains the second wave - what are the East Asians doing better than us?

South Korea is also containing the second wave - what are the East Asians doing better than us?

While the corona numbers are rising in Europe, South Korea can once again stop the spread in the country. The country on the Han River is also struggling with difficulties.

Viewed from the outside, South Korea has all the characteristics that make epidemiologists ring all alarm bells: Half of the population of 51 million lives close together in an area that is around a quarter of Switzerland. At the same time, the country on the Han River is not only a geographical neighbor with China, but also a close trading partner. The conditions for the pandemic that broke out in Wuhan were anything but ideal.

And yet South Korea has now made it again: The East Asians were able to avert the second corona wave. For the third day in a row, the number of infections was again in the double-digit range, on Tuesday the health authorities reported only 51 local infections.

The situation threatened to tip over in Seoul as well

While the Covid cases are skyrocketing in most European countries, a renewed lockdown is at least no longer ruled out, a look at the Korean peninsula seems instructive: How did South Korea manage to curb the pandemic?

The facts speak for themselves. To date, only a little more than 23,000 people have contracted Covid-19 and fewer than 400 have died from it. The epidemiological situation in South Korea threatened to tip over again: the virus was able to spread uncontrollably in a sect in the spring, and later another cluster originated from a gay club in the nightlife district of the capital Seoul.

Most recently, free church congregations and demonstrations were mainly corona hotspots. Like many European states, the democratic South Korea, whose population is proud of its right to demonstrate, has to deal with government critics and downplayers of the virus. The cliché that the Koreans belong to the authorities is just a cliché.

South Korea's recipe for success is a combination of different factors. For example, Covid patients were not only interviewed in detail from the beginning via contact persons, but their movements were also tracked at the same time using GPS data via smartphones and credit card transactions. The sometimes aggressive digital surveillance is approved by over 80 percent of the population, according to government surveys.

The economy will probably only collapse by one percent

The state health insurance should also shoulder all quarantine, test and treatment costs. And when the government made additional funding in the billions in March, it happened without any major delay within twelve days. The fiscal package amounts to only around 0.7 percent of the gross domestic product - far less than, for example, the packages of measures in many European countries.

Nevertheless, according to the OECD forecast, South Korea will experience an economic slump of just one percent for the current year. The reason for this is that Seoul never had to impose a complete lockdown.

The government has consistently taken precisely calibrated measures. Level 2 distance rules apply until next Sunday, which limit meetings within four walls to 50 and outdoor meetings to 100 people. Public institutions such as museums and libraries are temporarily closed.

An important factor for success, however, is a cultural one: wearing masks is quite common even during traditional flu seasons; It is even more a polite gesture not to want to infect other people.

In addition, Koreans are used to virus epidemics from the past: Although they were not directly affected by SARS, the MERS coronavirus did not kill more people in any other country than in South Korea. That helped in the early days of Covid-19, when a large part of the population quickly became aware of the seriousness of the situation.