by UnHerd
Friday, 29
May 2020

The view from Asia: is test and trace even viable in the UK?

Experts from South Korea and Hong Kong share their views
by UnHerd

Test, track and trace, the strategy that the UK is now adopting to combat coronavirus, was developed in Asian countries in response to SARS. It has been used effectively in scenarios with very small levels of infection, but has never been proven in a country like the UK where the virus is already endemic.

Freddie Sayers spoke to Dr Jerome Kim and Professor Ben Cowling, senior experts in South Korea and Hong Kong respectively, to find out.

Have a look at these short clips and make your own mind up…


Dr Jerome Kim, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, South Korea.



Prof Ben Cowling, Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Hong Kong University.


Join the discussion

  • The principle is simple and correct, The eventual number of deaths is roughly proportional to the number of infected people at the time R goes below 1. The subsequent infectiions add a relatively negligible number of deaths.
    Like you, it is the figures I quibble with. Boris made a speech on 12th March asking us to stay at home for a week if we have the symptoms, and to wash our hands.
    He made another speech on the 16th March saying non-essential contact, particularly with over 70s, should stop, that we should work at home if possible, avoid going to pubs, clubs and theatres and effectively banning large events by withdrawing the support of the emergency services. The actual “lockdown” came a week later on 23rd March.
    My workplace shut on the 18th March. My gym shut on the 19th. There weren’t many people around by then.
    It has been estimated that R dipped below 1 some days before March 23rd – perhaps 1 doubling time, not 2.
    The claim is that lockdown a week early, on the 16th, would have prevented 3/4 of deaths; equivalently, 3/4 of the infections prior to R going below 1, is, to me, not believable. It is saying that all those deaths would have been prevented by a real lockdown on the 16th rather than the instructions in the speech of the 16th, followed by a real lockdown on the 23rd.

  • I still don’t understand how a time-bound lockdown is theorised to prevent total deaths over the long term. The curve may flatten, but isn’t the area under the curve the same? It is easy to understand how there may have been fewer deaths to today’s date via lockdown.

    But surely lockdown has to stay in place permanently for total eventual deaths to be affected (via lockdown as opposed to permanent behaviour change)?

  • Fraser Bailey,
    +1. And if the stupid government wants to buy me one, they can – but they can’t insist that I turn it on!

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