It’s only 800 miles from Wuhan, where the Coronavirus pandemic seems to have started, but astonishingly South Korea has beaten back the virus and life is largely normal. Deaths stand at under 300, while the UK’s death toll is in the tens of thousands. How has Korea so far defeated the virus without a damaging national lockdown as happened in the UK?
What are the vital lessons we could learn? And does what’s happened there show us what life may be like in the UK when lockdown finally ends?
Filmed in hospitals, testing centres and laboratories at the heart of South Korea’s struggle against coronavirus, and featuring interviews with top South Korean politicians and scientists, The Country that Beat the Virus: What Can Britain Learn? takes viewers inside a relentless national effort that at almost every stage seemed faster and better planned than the UK effort – a legacy of 2015’s lethal outbreak of the MERS virus.
Top UK experts contrast the South Korean effort with what’s happened in the UK and highlight what lessons we could learn about what we can do to minimise deaths when UK lockdown ends. In South Korea mass testing was deployed at incredible speed, accompanied by a vast contact tracing effort to quarantine affected people. Tracking apps, social media and mass surveillance allowed the South Korean government to track where the contagion was, and how many people were affected.
Hospitals equipped with negative pressure intensive care units, cameras to monitor patients, and high-quality PPE for staff treating victims, helped reduce risks to medical staff. Even when the contagion threatened to spread out of control, with experts blaming cross-infection at mass religious services held by a controversial religious sect, the South Korean system managed to stay on top of the virus. Is the UK government now following South Korea’s example to attempt to avoid a second spike of Covid-19 when we leave lockdown?
The Country That Beat the Virus – What Can Britain Learn? – Wednesday at 9.00pm on Channel 4.