South Korea has entered its second wave of coronaviruses. What can Canada learn? – National

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Earlier this week, South Korea became the first country to officially announce a second wave of the new coronavirus after a recent resurgence of cases.Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a briefing on Monday that the new wave came from several nightclub visits over a holiday weekend in early May , and was concentrated in the greater Seoul region, an area that had previously seen few cases despite its dense population.

“In the metropolitan area, we believe that the first wave took place from March to April, as well as from February to March,” said Jeong. “Then we see that the second wave, which was triggered by the May holidays, continued. “

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So what can Canada learn from the waves of South Korea so far? Experts say this should serve as an example of how to test and what to look for after reopening.

Canada is currently at the end of its first wave, with infection rates decreasing in the provinces and territories. Some provinces, such as Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, have not had new cases of COVID-19 for weeks.

If cases were to start to increase, Canadian public health officials would have to decide whether the country is really in its second wave, or simply the continuation of the first.

For there to be a second wave, there must be a severe increase in cases in an area where the virus appears to have been naturally eliminated and come back as a new variation of itself, said Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr at Global News.

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Saturday’s KCDC figures showed between 18 and 67 new cases of COVID-19 per day since June 9. New virus cases in South Korea fell to a single digit in April, but the country has registered new cases since.

The country’s rapid response and robust tests were widely recognized in March for keeping the current death toll at 280 in a country more populated than Canada, and South Korea appears to be continuing its methods in its second wave. The latest data from Johns Hopkins University shows that South Korea has 12,653 confirmed cases – compared to Canada, which has just over 104,000.

Colin Furness, an epidemiologist specializing in infection control and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said there were lessons to be learned from the two COVID-19 waves from South Korea.

“To stop a pandemic, when it is less contagious, it turns out that you can do it in two ways,” he said. “You can lock everyone or test everyone. And you have to be fully committed to at least one of them. ”

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Canada, meanwhile, has locked the country, closing its borders to non-essential travelers, banning small gatherings, closing bars and nightclubs, and implementing heavy directives and physical distancing campaigns.

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To date, Canada has tested more than 2.7 million people, compared to 1.2 million in South Korea. But at the height of the first wave in March, South Korea had increased the tests to 20,000 people per day (or 600,000 per month), while by the end of March, Canada had tested a little more 250,000.

Furness said the current two contrasting approaches to how to handle a pandemic. Although South Korea may have been able to cancel its caseload early, he said it would not help the severity of their second wave.

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The concept of physical distance may not have been firmly “grounded in their thinking,” especially with young people – key demographics in nightclubs, said Furness.

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It is also not the first time that nightclubs have been linked to an increase in the number of cases. After a 10-day sequence of reporting zero new infections in May, South Korea has recorded 34 cases which have been traced to various discotheques visited by a confirmed patient.

Even in some parts of Canada, COVID-19 cases among youth are increasing.

A University of Guelph study found that while the number of infections for other age groups declined steadily around mid-May, it increased among young people in some of Ontario’s most vulnerable regions. hard hit by the virus.

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“What we could learn is that public health messages need to be developed and targeted at this age group. Twenty-one years know they don’t risk dying from this, “said Furness, adding that opening a nightclub without completely reducing the infection rate to zero is” a very bad signal for a group that already has risky behavior. ”

“When you are in your twenties, you are invincible. So I think they underestimated the risk of 20 years and made it worse. They put gas on the fire. ”

However, South Korea has excelled in certain areas that can be viewed as real teaching moments for Canada.

Zahid Butt, infectious disease specialist and assistant professor at the University of Waterloo, said that South Korea is a champion in contact tracing, which involves tracing an infection person by person and keeping it away from others in order to avoid further spread.

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“If there is a spate of new cases, then you need to prepare,” he said.

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“It looks like it was much better (in South Korea) than in Canada,” said Butt on contact tracing, adding that it had played an important role in how South Korea reopened. its economy.

How the country has prepared for a potential second wave and how this tool is being reused could be research for Canada, he said.

Carr added that with Seoul’s high population density, “there is absolutely a risk now” for an “exponential increase” in cases – and Canada should take note.

Many provinces in Canada are reopening and easing COVID-19 restrictions.

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In a second wave, Carr said Canada will need to be vigilant and invest resources in ongoing asymptomatic testing to better understand where the virus is circulating in the population, locate clusters and force isolation if necessary.

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“Different pockets of the infected population or different outcomes, more hospitalizations or more deaths – these are the keys we need to watch out for,” she said.

“The result, the severity of the disease, if it changes or if the clusters or impact have a more serious impact, triggers a second wave.”

Wearing masks in areas where social distancing is not possible will also be essential to reducing the severity of the second wave, Carr said, adding that the severity of Canada’s second wave will be determined by how people adhere to public health directives.

In April, South Korea relaxed its social distancing measures. In May, he revealed his intention to end his social distancing campaigns, reopening crowded spaces like shopping malls and “entertainment facilities” with minimal mention of the importance of masks.

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“Humans are the joker in all of this. We know what the risk factors are. We know what the security measures are. Public health workers tell us about the distance every day, ”she said. “We all know what we have to do. ”

As Caroline Colijn, Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Evolution, Infection and Public Health at Simon Fraser University, pointed out: “The only thing that has always worked is really to stay away from each other physically.

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“This bug did not recede naturally. It only disappeared because we did things and in particular, we stayed away from each other, “she said.

“As we get together and stop moving away from each other and go to bars and restaurants and nightclubs … (the virus) will only take these opportunities to move from one person to another and cause more cases. ”

– With Reuters files

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