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※ 'Corona Behind' is a report by Park Soo-jin, a reporter from the Life and Culture Department of SBS Press Headquarters, who is running at the forefront of the Corona 19 coverage.

Once a week, reporters Park's articles and thoughts that were not included in the article are released to readers.

[Editor's Note]


It feels a little unfamiliar now, but it is a word that was used sparingly even in 2020, when the corona epidemic was early.

Overseas, it is also called the K-quarantine model, and

foreign news articles highlighting K-quarantine have appeared, such as

<How Korea successfully dealt with COVID-19 (2020.9.25. Wall Street Journal)> .

In data released by

the government, it was often used to inform the Korean government's strategy to respond to the coronavirus, such as

<Sharing the experience of K-Quarantine with the world (May .

What is the exact definition of K-Quarantine?

I wondered if it was a word that could be used like a normal noun.

So far, I think it is accurate to view the two-year coronavirus response policy implemented by the Moon Jae-in administration, who resigned on the 9th.

It was during the Moon Jae-in administration that the word “K-Defense” appeared, and the main reason for using this word while highly appreciating South Korea’s coronavirus response strategy abroad is

▲3T strategy (Testing, Tracing, Treatment) ▲Centralized control and communication ▲High mask Wear and vaccination rates

It also coincides with the Moon Jae-in government's key quarantine strategy.

According to the national white paper released by the Moon Jae-in government after his retirement,

<K-Petidology has established itself as a world-leading model> <Even in the midst of a crisis, our country is evaluated to have accomplished enough to create a new brand called K-Petidology>

(8 government white papers) K-Quarantine appears several times, such as in 'K-Pest control created with the people').

Former President Moon Jae-in and former Prime Minister Kim Bu-gyeom also repeatedly mentioned 'successful quarantine' in their last statement.

There are public opinion that sympathize with this evaluation, but there is also a critical opinion that it is “self-praise”.

Compared to 2020, when the word K-Quarantine was at its peak, public opinion that 'disagreeable' has increased, it is probably not correct to say that although it was successful in the beginning, it was not sustainable.

If the Moon Jae-in administration's K-Pest control season 1 was the first war against the virus, the Yoon Seok-yeol administration's season 2 would be about creating a system that can defend against any virus attack.

Looking back on season 1, I would like to point out the direction of season 2.

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K-Quarantine Season 1 Stage: November 1, 2021

Even officials from the Moon Jae-in government, who evaluate that the K-Quarantine has been successful, have a common moment to say “I am sorry”.

It is November 1, 2021.

On this day, he said, "Even if the number of confirmed cases increases, now is the time to start recovering daily."

Although the limit of the number of private gatherings (10 people in the metropolitan area, 12 people in the non-metropolitan area) was left, most of the rules such as restrictions on business hours were relaxed.

This period was the end of the delta virus epidemic, when the seriousness and death toll from the increased epidemic began to increase retrospectively.

On November 1, there were only 1,686 new confirmed cases, 34 cases of severe disease, and 9 deaths. On December 1, a month later, the number of new confirmed cases increased to 5,123 cases, 723 cases of severe disease, and 34 deaths.

Since then, new confirmed cases have subsided a little, but the number of seriously ill patients remained at the 1,000 level until early January, and the medical field had to go through a 'critical patient bed crisis'.

The confusion of the patients who were anxious because there was no bed and the exhausted medical field is still vivid.

In the end, several administrative orders are issued for hospitals to secure beds for Corona.

A high-ranking government official who played a central role in implementing the Moon Jae-in government's quarantine policy remembered that time:

“Last November, our daily recovery started with little preparation.

Even the president at the time was very angry.

While announcing that it would focus on care for the severe cases and deaths, not the number of confirmed cases, the intensive care unit was not prepared properly.

At the meeting, the president severely rebuked the working-level staff, and instructed Chief of Staff Yoo Young-min to take responsibility and make the bed.

So, together with the national university hospitals, the number of critically ill beds was urgently increased.

At the time, I had a thought, 'It's going to be broken now, so should I make it?', but after watching the fashion scale grow, it was late, but I thought it was a good thing.”

Another reason why the gradual recovery of daily life on November 1 was a 'mistake' was that the imminent mutation attack was not properly predicted and the preparation was poor.

Omicron mutation was discovered in Korea in early December.

It was a period when the delta epidemic still continued, and the number of severe cases and deaths increased sharply.

A new mutation encountered during the turmoil of the delta fad.

The quarantine policy fluctuated, and in the end, the gradual recovery of daily life was stopped after a month.

Since then, social distancing has continued to restrict the number of gatherings and business hours, but public acceptance has not been the same.

It was at this time that the '3T strategy', which was the core of K-Quarantine, began to show its limits.

The 3T strategy, in which rapid diagnostic testing and tracking were its weapons, was helpless in the face of the Omicron mutation, which spreads so quickly that the route of infection cannot be determined.

Since there was no tracking, the government strengthened the 'Quarantine Pass' to minimize infection by allowing 'only those who have been vaccinated' to enter. Confusion and conflict grew, and eventually the effectiveness of infection prevention was stopped by hitting a wall of law before it could be properly evaluated.

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K-Quarantine Season 1 Stage: Confusion and Sacrifice in the Medical Field

'Thanks to the challenge'.

It was a campaign to express gratitude to the medical staff who are struggling on the front line of the corona epidemic, and it was a campaign to take pictures or videos of sign language gestures to show gratitude and respect in the early stages of the corona epidemic and post them on social media.

However, the corona epidemic was longer than expected to survive with only gratitude.

When the first epidemic from Shincheonji was spreading, the sense of duty of medical staff who volunteered to go to Daegu despite the risk of infection was not easy to withstand the epidemic that continued for more than two years.

The testimony from the medical field at the <Why is the Infectious Disease Response System Reform Necessary After Corona?> held on the 2nd of the month hosted by the National Medical Center is worth pondering.

“In the second half of K-Quarantine, things didn’t go as planned.

Although it showed excellent results in non-pharmacological interventions, there were many shortcomings in managing the medical system and distributing and reallocating resources.

There was a lack of expansion and efficiency in the medical system so that it did not overflow.

Policies should be responded to by changing them to fit the reality, but an error occurred in continuing the initial strategy without change.”

According to the increase or decrease in the number of corona patients, public hospitals were designated as infectious disease hospitals, and administrative orders were issued to private hospitals to increase and decrease the number of beds repeatedly for two years.

It is true that it was difficult to find an appropriate response at that time because it was the first epidemic, but it was impossible to establish a fundamental medical response system for infectious diseases as 'tinkering prescriptions' continued in the medical field.

An official from a public hospital in Seoul confessed to a reporter:

“I don’t know how many times the Ministry of Welfare and local governments have given orders to the effect of ‘this is the last time, please only until this time’.

Each time that happened, the number of beds was increased again, and there were repeated cases of pushing critically ill patients to hospitals where only moderately ill patients could be seen.

When the government issues an executive order, it’s over, but it was up to the hospital to persuade and appease the medical staff and lead them.”

This phenomenon is also evaluated as a side effect of a policy that mixes quarantine and medical care, which requires a different approach.

Lim Jun, head of the National Medical Center, said in a forum on the 2nd, “Even though quarantine and medical treatment have essentially different targets, approaches, and purposes, we implemented a policy to include medical care in quarantine.

"There were secondary damages such as unnecessary increase in hospitalizations, inefficient consumption of medical resources, inability to treat patients in need of hospitalization and treatment in a timely and appropriate manner, and setbacks in treatment for non-corona patients," he explained. 

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K-Quarantine Season 2: 'Scientific quarantine' instead of political quarantine, is it possible?

As the period when the continuity of K- quarantine was declining coincided with the transition of power, the evaluation of the quarantine policies of the past two years before and after the presidential election was politically sharp.

The Yun Seok-yeol administration defined the previous administration's quarantine as 'political quarantine' and is raising its voice that it will implement 'scientific quarantine' in the future.

How scientific is the quarantine policy that the new government is preparing?

There are 34 coronavirus quarantine tasks that the Yun Seok-yeol administration declared to be resolved within 100 days after taking office.

It is divided into four categories: ▲Scientific evidence-based quarantine policy ▲Sustainable infectious disease response system ▲Protection of high-risk groups ▲Securing safe vaccines and sufficient therapeutic agents.

'Scientific evidence-based quarantine policy' tasks include a nationwide antibody positivity rate survey, establishment of an integrated quarantine information system, complete removal of outdoor masks, and reorganization of the social distancing system.

In the case of the full lifting of the double outdoor mask, it is also a short-term task that must be decided within a month.

Transition to a general medical-centered system, strengthening emergency treatment system for special patients, measures to secure hospital beds in preparation for a re-emergency, reorganization of infectious disease class and quarantine system, and establishment of a world-class central hospital specializing in infectious diseases, etc. It is a detailed task for this purpose, and it includes those already in progress under the Moon Jae-in government.

The reorganization of the quarantine system, which lifts the quarantine obligation for confirmed patients, is of great interest to the public, so the direction will be revealed as early as this week.

Although the new government has promised, “We will create a quarantine measure different from the past, which had to shut down all relevant industries when a confirmed case occurs,” but a specific action plan has not been released yet, so it is a bit too early to judge scientific differentiation.

The decision on what basis the declaration of free outdoor mask placed as a priority or the discussion of lifting the quarantine obligation for confirmed cases is decided will probably be the first measure of the new government's scientific quarantine.

If there is no clear difference from the policy-making process of the former government, which was defined as “political quarantine,” the situation may be even more difficult.

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In order for the Yun Seok-yeol administration to create a 'system that can withstand any virus attack', it would have to listen more to the voices of the medical field.

The medical world demands standardization of the medical response system for infectious diseases.

It means that you have to invest manpower and money to build a system that can run in any situation, not a temporary tinkering according to the fashion situation.

In an interview with SBS, director of Seoul Medical Center Song Kwan-young said, “As a hospital that has experienced a dedicated hospital for corona, what I want the most is that in order for infectious disease patients to be isolated (in the system so far), all normal patients have to be sent out, a new negative pressure device is installed, and this procedure must be followed. Such a process is difficult and not normal.

Considering the level of national dignity in our country, even if an infectious disease epidemic comes, such hardware should be prepared in advance.”

The establishment of a central hospital specializing in infectious diseases included in the new government's quarantine task is one of the concrete measures.

“It is necessary to prepare a system that allows the central government to identify and deploy personnel and medical resources centered on the Central Infectious Disease Hospital, rather than a temporary system in which the central government allocates manpower or beds in the Kakao Talk room, such as a major script, in the medical field.” There are opinions.

Although they declared that they would not conduct political quarantine, immediately after the new government took office, the quarantine authorities are being hit the hardest by the change of power between the old and the new.

The head of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, which should be in charge of the Prime Minister, is also vacant.

Of course, policy enforcement is what practitioners do, but a ship without a captain is prone to wandering.

(Reporter: Park Soo-jin, PD: Kim Do-kyun, Illustration: Kim Jeong-yeon, Producer: D Content Planning Department)