The Covid-19 outbreak has engulfed the entire world in an unprecedented crisis with far-reaching implications on every aspect of human life, triggering widespread closing of borders, wiping out global mobility of people and goods, disrupting global supply and distribution chains and literally grinding our lives to a halt.
South Korea was one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus during the early stages of its spread, but has now been able to bring the situation under control. In doing so, it has offered a useful model to the international community for how to effectively curb the spread of the virus.
As of April 12, South Korea had 10,512 cases of which 7,368 have fully recovered.
In spite of indications that South Korea might have flattened the curve of new infections, we continue to remain vigilant as there are sporadic spikes in group or community transmissions, as well as an increase in the inflow of confirmed cases from abroad.
In its efforts to tackle the spread of Covid-19, South Korea has upheld the principle of openness and transparency.
We have been fully committed to sharing information on the Covid-19 situation and its policy responses from day one of the outbreak in South Korea.
One other distinctive feature of South Korea's response has been application of ICT-based cutting-edge technology, as well as putting to use creative methods such as drive-through and walk-through testing stations.
More than anything else, however, voluntary civic participation based on the shared determination of the people and the government of South Korea has played a critical role in slowing the spread of Covid-19.
The South Korean government’s strategy to counter and contain the virus consists of 3Ts: testing, tracing and treating.
This approach involves testing aggressively to identify confirmed cases, tracing contacts of confirmed patients meticulously to prevent further spread and treating those infected at the earliest possible stage.
Robust diagnostic testing capabilities lie at the core of our strategy. We have performed more than 510,000 test tests so far.
As a way of saving time needed for sample-taking and limiting exposure of frontline medical workers to possible contamination, our medical community pioneered drive-through testing stations.
We have been vigorously tracing those who had been in contact with confirmed patients, utilising credit card use records, CCTV footage and mobile phone GPS data, within the scope of our domestic law.
Preemptive diagnostic screening and rigorous epidemiological investigations are followed by intensive treatment at the earliest possible stage to increase the likelihood of successful recovery.
As a result of prioritising medical resources to those most in need of treatment, the fatality rate in South Korea has been kept relatively low, at around 1.92 per cent.
Together with these measures, a high level of public trust in the government’s policies and guidelines, a high civic awareness and adherence to personal hygiene have all contributed to slowing the spread of Covid-19 in South Korea.
In the course of fighting the spread of the pandemic, South Korea and the UAE have been able to reconfirm the uniqueness of their special strategic partnership, helping each other through tough times.
I wish to express profound gratitude for the genuine care and support rendered by the UAE to South Korea in its hour of need as it faced an uphill battle against the sudden spikes of the coronavirus cases in late February and early March, keeping the UAE’s air route open with South Korea until the last minute before the UAE suspended passenger flights in the face of the rapid acceleration of the virus.
This was an unmistakable sign that showed how much importance the UAE attached to its relationship with South Korea and how much trust it had in South Korea’s capacity to bring the situation under control.
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Having gotten back on its feet and equipped with useful lessons and information to come to grips with the virus, South Korea is fully ready to co-operate with the UAE in whatever way possible to overcome this crisis.
The UAE has risen decisively to the challenges posed by the virus and demonstrated unwavering commitment to safeguarding the welfare and safety of its citizens and residents. I have found many similarities between the policies of our two countries.
First, both our countries have been tackling the disease in a proactive and transparent manner based on the public trust in our respective governments.
Second, South Korea and the UAE share the view that international collaboration is essential to deal with the virus. No country can be fully safe alone until the world as a whole can be safely protected from the pandemic.
In this regard, I am happy to note that the UAE has become a paragon of international solidarity, actively providing much-needed medical and humanitarian assistance to many hard-hit countries in this region and beyond.
In particular, I was deeply moved by the UAE having organised an evacuation operation in early March for 215 people from Arab and other countries who had been stranded in China, in line with its long-standing tradition of extending a helping hand to those in need.
Third, South Korea and the UAE are taking a comprehensive approach which aims not only to tackle the public health crisis but also to relieve their economies of negative impacts brought by this pandemic.
I am confident that South Korea and the UAE, standing shoulder to shoulder, will emerge victorious from the Covid-19 crisis, with our partnership stronger than ever before.
His Excellency Yongwoo Kwon is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea