Alongside Italy and Iran, South Korea swiftly became one of COVID-19's three initial international footholds outside China. While the U.S. experiencing a surge in cases amid controversy over a lack of testing and Italy's death toll just surpassing China's, the trends from South Korea remain positive. It experienced 7,700 confirmed cases of the virus by March 11 with around three quarters of that total occurring in Daegu and about 63 percent directly linked to the Shinchonji religious group. The latest data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the number of new daily infections across the country has largely declined over the past week.
At the end of February, there were 909 new confirmed cases and on March 10, that had fallen to 131. The latest March 20 data shows 87 new cases, a long way off the daily totals reported in late February. The primary reason South Korea has managed to slow the spread of COVID-19 seems to be the government's swift move to roll out widespread and free public testing. The city of Goyang even established an innovative drive-thru testing area, a move that has been copied by other countries including Germany and Ireland.
In an interview with CNN earlier this month, South Korea's top health official, Park Neunghoo, said that he hoped his country has passed the peak before emphasizing the importance of early testing. He said that "raising the testing capability is very important because that way, you can detect someone who's carrying the virus, then you can contain the virus". If authorities are able to keep the spread of the virus in check, South Korea's model of containment will surely become an example for other badly impacted countries.