How South Korea Flattened the Curve

Can the United States follow suit?

People wearing face masks amid concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, walk through an alleyway in Seoul on Marh 24, 2020. (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)
People wearing face masks amid concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, walk through an alleyway in Seoul on Marh 24, 2020. (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)
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By Bonnie Stiernberg / March 24, 2020 2:11 pm

At the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, South Korea was seeing as many as 909 new cases in a single day, but as a new New York Times piece points out, a week later that number was halved, and another four days later it was halved again. The country has seen a major reduction in new coronavirus cases, making it one of only a couple nations (along with China) that appear to have the outbreak under control.

The Times identified four major ways that South Korea has managed to cut down on new coronavirus cases and flatten the curve: by taking swift action, implementing widespread testing, using “contact tracing” to determine who else may have been exposed to a person who tests positive for the virus, and support and compliance from citizens. (South Korea has conducted over 300,000 tests, which brings them to a per-capita rate more than 40 times that of the United States.)

As the publication notes, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of Sweden have both reached out and called South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, to receive more details on what methods the country used to slow the spread of the virus. But it may already be too late.

“We probably lost the chance to have an outcome like South Korea,” Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, wrote on Twitter. “We must do everything to avert the tragic suffering being borne by Italy.”

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