The effect of control measures on COVID-19 transmission in South Korea

Taeyong Lee, Hee Dae Kwon, Jeehyun Lee

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Countries around the world have taken control measures to mitigate the spread of COVID19, including Korea. Social distancing is considered an essential strategy to reduce transmission in the absence of vaccination or treatment. While interventions have been successful in controlling COVID-19 in Korea, maintaining the current restrictions incurs great social costs. Thus, it is important to analyze the impact of different polices on the spread of the epidemic. To model the COVID-19 outbreak, we use an extended age-structured SEIR model with quarantine and isolation compartments. The model is calibrated to age-specific cumulative confirmed cases provided by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). Four control measures-school closure, social distancing, quarantine, and isolation-are investigated. Because the infectiousness of the exposed has been controversial, we study two major scenarios, considering contributions to infection of the exposed, the quarantined, and the isolated. Assuming the transmission rate would increase more than 1.7 times after the end of social distancing, a second outbreak is expected in the first scenario. The epidemic threshold for increase of contacts between teenagers after school reopening is 3.3 times, which brings the net reproduction number to 1. The threshold values are higher in the second scenario. If the average time taken until isolation and quarantine reduces from three days to two, cumulative cases are reduced by 60% and 47% in the first scenario, respectively. Meanwhile, the reduction is 33% and 41%, respectively, for rapid isolation and quarantine in the second scenario. Without social distancing, a second wave is possible, irrespective of whether we assume risk of infection by the exposed. In the noninfectivity of the exposed scenario, early detection and isolation are significantly more effective than quarantine. Furthermore, quarantining the exposed is as important as isolating the infectious when we assume that the exposed also contribute to infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0249262
JournalPloS one
Issue number3 March
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work of Jeehyun Lee was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea [grant number: 2020R1A2C1A0101077511] and Korea Health Industry Development Institute [grant number: HG20C0003030020]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Lee et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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