March 20, 2020 / 8:59 PM / 15 days ago

How Reuters journalists reported South Korea’s swift action to test for coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Medical staff in protective gear work at a 'drive-thru' testing center for the novel coronavirus disease of COVID-19 in Yeungnam University Medical Center in Daegu, South Korea, March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

This week, a Reuters special report examined how South Korea trounced the U.S. in the race to test people for coronavirus.

The story, by Reuters journalists Chad Terhune, Dan Levine, Hyunjoo Jin and Jane Lanhee Lee, reported that in late January, with only four known cases confirmed, South Korean health officials summoned representatives from more than 20 medical companies from their lunar New Year celebrations to a conference room tucked inside Seoul’s busy train station. The country’s top infectious disease officials told the group the country immediately needed an effective test to detect the novel coronavirus and promised the companies swift regulatory approval.

South Korea’s quick action stands in stark contrast to what has transpired in the United States, the story reported. Koreans have tested well over 290,000 people and identified over 8,000 infections. New cases are falling off: Ninety-three were reported Wednesday, down from a daily peak of 909, two weeks earlier. The United States, whose first case was detected the same day as South Korea’s, is not even close to meeting demand for testing. About 60,000 tests have been run by public and private labs in a country of 330 million, federal officials said Tuesday.

On reporting the story, Terhune said, “We were digging into U.S. testing problems broadly and why this happened. And Dan smartly decided to examine what went so right in Korea, and brought in our global reporting prowess in Seoul.”

Levine added, “I started reaching out to people in Korea who had been involved in the country’s response, along with my colleague Jane Lee in the San Francisco bureau, who is a Korean speaker. We were speaking with Lee Hyukmin, head of the coronavirus task force at the Korean Society for Laboratory Medicine, and he told us about the train station meeting which happened on the last day of lunar new year. That really seemed to encapsulate the urgency with which they tackled the issue, and the different approach, compared to the U.S.”

The story received widespread attention and praise, including from former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who called in a tweet for more tests to be made “widely accessible immediately to help front-line health care workers do their jobs” in response to the story.

Follow the latest on Reuters coverage of coronavirus here.

[Reuters PR Blog Post]

Media contact:
Heather Carpenter
heather.carpenter @thomsonreuters.com

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