Coronavirus: Seoul bets on technology to avoid a second wave

South Korea, one of the first countries to have managed to control the spread of the coronavirus, is now preparing measures to avoid a resurgence of the virus by using technological tools and a hyperconnected society.

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea, one of the first countries to have managed to control the spread of the coronavirus, is now preparing measures to avoid a resurgence of the virus by using technological tools and a hyper-connected society.

The country has developed a tracking app for smartphones that tracks new passengers disembarking at airports, a so-called smart database of newly infected people and their contacts, and electronic wristbands to monitor patients. in isolation.

This technological deployment also aims to revive the fourth largest economy in Asia by leveraging tools that have enabled the country to avoid a general containment of the population and a closure of businesses, said the Korean authorities.

“Bypassing containment or displacement prohibitions, we have been able to keep our factories in good shape for the most part, and this shows the world that we are a safe and transparent production base,” said the minister last week. chairman Moon Jae-in.

The development of the situation in South Korea is observed very closely in Europe and the United States where the various governments hope to learn from it.

TRACKING IN REAL TIME

Korea’s strategy to keep the virus under control for the long term will be based in particular on “contact tracing”, a method consisting in tracing the history of a patient suffering from COVID-19 and in identifying all the contacts he has could have.

Experts say this intensive search and screening campaign has uncovered foci of infections that may have gone undetected.

In addition to the tests and tracing techniques already in use, South Korea plans to create a shareable database on the model of “smart cities” and to impose an electronic bracelet on offenders placed in solitary confinement.

The health authorities plan to use this database, which will be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), to speed up the identification and isolation of infected people. The bases are capable of providing real-time location data on patients, including time spent in a specific place and transactions carried out by bank card.

According to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, at the origin of the project of “smart cities”, this will allow to trace the movements of a patient in ten minutes against about a day before.

In addition to the information transmitted by the KCDC, the system will also integrate data from the National Police Agency, the financial organization Credit Finance Association of Korea, three telecommunications operators and 22 credit card companies.

Freedom of defense organizations have expressed concern about these measures, saying in particular that the tracking bracelets constitute potential discrimination against patients.

In his defense, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport said that a green light from the police will be necessary to access this database, which will be deleted once the epidemic is brought under control.

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