On March 25, President Trump made a request for testing materials during a phone call with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. During that conversation, Trump asked if South Korea could send medical equipment and supplies to help curb the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. Tuesday a shipment of kits designed to run up to 600,000 coronavirus tests will leave South Korea for the United States.
At the time of the March 25 telephone call, Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said they were willing to send chemical reagents used to extract genetic material during COVID-19 tests. The level of response would be determined by the effect it would have on South Korean testing.
Reuters is reporting today that a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cargo plane carrying kits designed to run up to 600,000 coronavirus tests is scheduled to leave at 10:30 p.m. (1330 GMT) Tuesday. The initial source for the Reuters story spoke on the condition of anonymity, as this is considered a sensitive issue.
South Korea’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha confirmed the Reuters report in an interview on French news channel France 24, saying that contracts have been signed and the shipments will be “ready any time soon”.
The first shipments will be handed over to and paid for by the U.S. government, the official told Reuters.
The second shipment of kits that can conduct up to 150,000 tests will be sent “in the near future”. These tests will be sold through an unspecified local retailer.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) kits will be sourced from three companies that secured preliminary approval late last month from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to export kits to the United States, the official said.
He declined to name the two companies that will provide the shipments on Tuesday.
However, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said, on condition of anonymity, that one of the two firms is Osang Healthcare and the company will provide kits for 300,000 tests.
South Korea’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has received notice because of how quickly the government took control with minimal disruption. A combination of a massive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing was used with success. Government officials and private companies working together to develop and secure regulatory approval for tests early on in South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak are credited with the country’s ability to test thousands of people quickly.
It looks like South Korea has flattened the curve in its own battle against COVID-19 so now they are able to grant President Trump’s request. “We’ve moved as quickly as possible to get necessary clearances given the urgency of the situation there,” the South Korean official said. South Korean companies have already sent kits to cities like Los Angeles. The planeload of kits scheduled for Tuesday’s departure is the first bulk order from the federal government.
Recently a new concern has arisen in South Korea – the number of people who tested positive a second time after recovering from the coronavirus is increasing. Jeong Eun-kyeong says the virus may have been “reactivated” rather than the patients being reinfected. Does this possibility of reinfection throws cold water on the hopes that those who recover from COVID-19 having immunity from the virus?
Health authorities in the country said epidemiological investigations were under way to figure out what is behind the disturbing trend — as many countries are hoping that people will develop sufficient immunity to prevent a resurgence of the pandemic.
False test results also could be the cause, other experts said, or remnants of the virus could still be in people’s systems but not be infectious or of danger to the host or anyone else.
“There are different interpretations and many variables,” said Jung Ki-suck, professor of pulmonary medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital.
“The government needs to come up with responses for each of these variables,” Jung said.
South Korea reports that 7,000 people have recovered. As of Friday, the number of total cases was 10,450 and the number of deaths is reported to be 211. The lowest number of new cases was reported on Friday, with 27 new cases being reported. The daily cases peaked at more than 900 in late February.