A South Korean Covid-19 Czar Has Some Recommendation for Trump

As America’s first week of social distancing drew to an in depth, I known as Dr. Min Pok-kee, who heads up the Covid-19 response in Daegu, the South Korean metropolis hit hardest by the epidemic. Although Min often works as a dermatologist, he has spent the previous six weeks as a volunteer civil servant, commanding an aggressive public well being technique that’s now seen as a nationwide mannequin for slowing transmission of the coronavirus. In truth, on Tuesday, President Trump known as his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, to request medical tools and help.

Min has been following the state of affairs in the US, the place his daughter attends school. However he appeared stunned, and alarmed, by what I instructed him—particularly in regards to the scarcity of diagnostic assessments and hospital beds. We spoke in Korean; his account has been translated, edited, and condensed.

On the finish of January, I warned the mayor of Daegu {that a} pandemic was coming. I had spoken with hospitals in China and obtained data from the docs. Inside a number of weeks, we had 11 instances, most of them members of Shincheonji [a Christian movement]. My thought was, “This might unfold actually, actually quick. We now have to cease this.”

Once I was within the navy, I practiced quite a lot of struggle simulations. So I instantly contacted native navy hospitals and mentioned, “Prepare.”

{Photograph}: South Korean Presidential Blue Home/Getty Photos

In Daegu, we had greater than 10,000 members of Shincheonji. Once we examined those that had been symptomatic, 87.5 p.c turned out to be constructive. Once we examined a pattern of people that weren’t symptomatic, it was 74.four per cent. So we needed to quarantine this group, and we did. We name this our “divine maneuver.” If we hadn’t completed it from the very starting, we’d be the place the US is now, the place Italy is now.

Once we hit 5,000 confirmed instances in Daegu, we figured Seoul was going to have 30,000. That’s an absolute catastrophe. The mayor of Daegu, to his credit score, actually heard me out. To be trustworthy with you, the president of Korea didn’t do the identical. The docs advising the president, many people specialists consider, didn’t do proper by him. Their important misstep was saying all the pieces was nice, that there wasn’t any downside.

At first, we had been desperately quick on provides. However we moved rapidly to determine a response. We centered on tools—masks, respirators, negative-pressure machines. As a result of that is an infectious illness, that you must transfer the air inside a hospital room to the skin. We solely had 30 negative-pressure hospital beds in all of Daegu, and a few of these had been in use. However we secured a number of hundred extra in coordination with the nationwide authorities and the navy.

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