South Korea has been heralded worldwide for its success in preventing the coronavirus pandemic from spreading to vulnerable care home residents.
The far-eastern nation has seen 11,078 cases as of Tuesday and 263 deaths, but remarkably has yet to record a single death within its care homes.
Adelina Comas-Herrera, assistant professorial research fellow at London School of Economics, told the Commons health and social care committee that stringent isolation measures have helped prevent a crisis on the scale of the UK’s.
“In South Korea, there hasn’t been a single death of a care home resident in the care home,” Comas-Herrera said on Tuesday.
“That is because anybody with suspected COVID was immediately isolated and if they tested positive were removed into quarantine centres, and/or hospitals. So not a single person has died with COVID in a South Korean care home.
“That’s just an example of how quickly they acted to make sure that there wasn’t any possibility of transmission within the care home.
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“Singapore has adopted similar measures. They have had some infections, but they’ve acted really quickly to make sure that it didn’t spread within the care homes.”
She pointed out that these countries had experience of Sars, and their infection control policies were based on that, rather than influenza, adding: “I think that put them perhaps at a slightly better position to deal with this.”
The UK government has been criticised for failing to act sooner to protect care homes, which have now seen 11,600 deaths across the country.
Labour MP Sarah Owen raised the example of South Korea to show ask why similar measures have not been taken to protecting vulnerable elderly residents.
"The health and social care select committee just heard evidence that there has been not one single care home death in Hong Kong or South Korea, despite their close proximity to China and shorter time to prepare for this crisis,” Owen told the House of Commons.
"In comparison, the UK has now tragically seen over 10,000 deaths of loved ones in care homes.
“How can the government describe this as a success and isn't it time now to learn from other countries who have genuinely put a protective ring around their care homes?"
Health secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged that it is "important to learn from everywhere around the world" in how others are dealing with coronavirus.
He replied: "Well yes absolutely, it is important to learn from everywhere around the world and this epidemic has had a different shape in different parts of the world, and as she knows, a very significant impact throughout Europe."