Before there were any cases of novel coronavirus confirmed in South Korea, one of the country’s biotech firms had begun preparing to make testing kits to identify the disease.
On January 16, Chun Jong-yoon, the chief executive and founder of molecular biotech company Seegene, told his team it was time to start focusing on coronavirus.
That was before the virus sweeping China had been named Covid-19 and four days ahead of South Korea confirming its first case.
“Even if nobody is asking us to, we are a molecular diagnosis company. We have to prepare in advance,” he remembered thinking at the time.
Fast forward two months, and South Korea is among the world’s worst affected countries, with nearly 8,000 people infected, according to the World Health Organization.
But one reason why South Korea might have a higher number of infections than other countries is its aggressive approach to testing.
While some nations have struggled to get enough test kits to diagnose suspected patients, South Korea has provided free and easy access to testing for anyone who a doctor deems needs it. To date, the country has tested more than 230,000 people.
Part of the reason it was able to do that is the availability of test kits developed by companies like Seegene.