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  • Leon Grice

South Korea scrambling for control

We promised an update on South Korea because its Reff is showing a remarkable and steep increase. We try to keep away from interpreting our data in the expert domain of epidemiologists. Correlation is not causation.

However we regularly see very clear correlations between our Reff predictions and real world events. For example, in South Korea, in May, we saw the results of the superspreader who went to five nightclubs in the early hours of 1 May who reportedly infected 79 people on one night out. Our Reff curve ticked up almost immediately and by 5 May Reff was over 1.0. Reff has stayed just above 1.0 since then and daily cases have continued at around 40 to 50 cases a day.

But on 26 July our modeller started a steep climb and the number of daily cases has increased dramatically and the growth in Reff has shown remarkably steep growth. Something is going on.

Two days ago Reuters reported the comments of Vice Health Minister, Kim Ganga-lip, "we're in a desperately dangerous crisis where infections are spreading in the Seoul metropolitan area and threatening to lead to a massive nationwide transmission. The government cannot contain the current spread only with tracing and isolation... please stay home unless you must go out." At least 166 of the new infections are linked to the Sarang Jeil Church, taking the number of cases from it to 623. Some members of the church, which is run by a radical conservative preacher, are reluctant to come forward and get tested, or to self-isolate, officials have said. Many of them also attended anti-government rallies in Seoul on the weekend where thousands of people gathered from across the country, raising fears infections were seeded there.

Our Reff model indicates that South Korea's outbreak is yet to respond to increased hygiene, physical distancing, testing and tracing efforts. Watch this closely as we continue to monitor South Korea's COVID-19 reproduction values.

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