Opinion

ZHAO: America Should Look To South Korea’s High Tech Approach To Control Coronavirus And Restore The Economy

YuKong Zhao President, Asian American Coalition for Education
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At Tuesday’s White House coronavirus briefing, President Trump expressed his rightful concern regarding economic damages of an ongoing nationwide shut-down and laid out a vision to jump-start our economic recovery after Easter Sunday.

Though the infected cases and deaths in the U.S. are still rising, I am confident America can achieve the president’s vision if we adopt the best practices from the rest of the world and apply high-tech tools to combat this contagious epidemic.

Out of dozens of nations that have seriously suffered from the COVID-19 epidemic, South Korea has been able to rapidly flatten and curb the rise of the COVID-19 cases, reduce the mortality rate and minimize its negative impacts on the national economy. Like other nations, South Korea has adopted many common-sense measures such as social distancing and medical treatment development. What sets South Korea apart from others is its aggressive testing approach as well as its use of high-tech big-data tools to track all COVID-19 cases and all contaminated areas.

Within a few weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak, Korean companies were able to launch a testing system with an impressive daily capacity of 10,000 cases. By March 8, South Koreans had tested 189,236 cases while the U.S. was only able to test 1,707 cases in total. With adequate testing data, South Korea took another crucial step to trace all COVID-19 positive cases and all contaminated areas. With cooperation from individuals and the private sector (mobile phone, telecommunication and credit card companies), the Korean government has published all the areas COVDID-19 virus carriers visited, as precise as to the movie theater seat number, without publishing patients’ names starting in early February.

In essence, South Korea has successfully combined aggressive testing and high-tech big-data tools to reveal the precise location of the enemy, COVID-19. Such precision has enabled the country to focus medical resources on key areas. It has also allowed South Korea to mitigate the epidemic’s negative repercussions on its economy.

Though it suffered early delays, our testing capabilities are ramping up very fast. With world-leading capabilities both in the medical and high-tech industries, our nation should be able to adopt the South Korean model in a timely manner. Through public-private partnerships, we should be able to promptly build up our capacity to trace all infected areas. Doing so, we can make the invisible enemy visible and focus our medical resources on infected regions/localities.

By adopting this cutting-edge approach, we can also minimize COVID-19’s damage to our economy. Equipped with the precise knowledge of disease carriers and infected areas, we can avoid applying an inefficient cookie-cut model to restrict socioeconomic activities nationwide for months to come. In the cities with no or adequately-controlled COVID-19 cases, we do not have to restrain social and economic activities. People can continue with their day-to-day lives. In this way, we can swiftly restore our economic activities in regions that are at low risk and begin to reverse the dramatic economic downturn.

Given all the benefits of adopting South Korea’s best practices, some people may argue it is not feasible to implement the model in the U.S. due to concerns of individual privacy. We can surely protect individual privacy by not disclosing virus carriers’ names while limiting data collection to the days of the virus’ lifespan. Moreover, I have confidence in patriotic Americans and believe most of them are willing to sacrifice a few days of privacy in order to help others and this great nation.

As a result, I recommend the White House Coronavirus Task Force take immediate actions to adopt the South Korean model and high-tech big-data tools to rapidly turn around America’s fight against COVID-19. When our nation confronts nationwide economic shutdown and insufficient data to precisely guide our combat against coronavirus, this approach can become a game-changer that can help America effectively control the pandemic while restore our economy rapidly.

Sun Tze famously said: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you will not lose any battle.” With this cutting-edge approach, I am certain that America can achieve the president’s vision and restore our economic activities by Easter.

Yukong Zhao lives in Orlando. He is a Republican candidate of the 7th Congressional District of Florida.