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How did Hong Kong and South Korea record no coronavirus deaths in aged care?

There have been no residential aged care deaths due to COVID-19 in either South Korea or Hong Kong, despite both regions having thousands of positive cases.

Experts told British MPs and members of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee that due to decisive and strict infection control measures, not one of the four deaths in Hong Kong or the 266 in South Korea occurred in residential aged care.

That is in stark contrast to the crisis in the UK, where an estimated 22,000 people have died in aged care homes. That figure is more than double the official figure the government has announced, which experts say does not paint an accurate picture of the crisis in British aged care homes.

Professor Terry Lum, head of social care policy at the University of Hong Kong, told the MPs that authorities were vigilant about the potential for the virus to spread from hospitals to care homes and took the extreme step of quarantining residents with positive results for three months, as reported by The Guardian.

“We do a very good job on isolation. Once we have any person infected, we isolate them in hospital for three months, and at the same time we isolate all the close contact people in a separate quarantine centre for 14 days for observation,” he said.

“They do tests regularly in that 14 days to make sure they don’t have the virus. We use a supercomputer to trace the close contacts of people being infected, particularly for cluster outbreaks.”

Lum also told the MPs that all nursing homes drilled infection outbreak scenarios four times a year and employed an infection controller as standard practice.

Adelina Comas-Herrera, from the London School of Economics, told MPs the reason that South Korea had no recorded aged care home deaths was also because of the speed at which authorities took action.

“In South Korea, there hasn't been a single death of a care home resident in a care home.

“That is because anybody with suspected COVID-19 was immediately isolated, and if they tested positive they were removed into quarantine centres or hospitals. So, not a single person has died with COVID-19 in a South Korean care home."

MPs told Lum that the results in Hong Kong were surprising given the proximity to mainland China. Lum said that efforts to avoid the virus started in aged care before a single case had been found, with staff wearing masks since January, visitation restrictions and three-month stores of PPE key to the success.

Australia has had mixed results in keeping the virus out of aged care. There have been 97 confirmed COVID-19 cases across residential and home aged care, with 30 deaths.

Nationwide, there have been 7109 confirmed cases, with 33 cases currently receiving hospital treatment, five of whom are in ICU. The death toll stands at 102.

Globally, cases are now at 5,204,508, with 337,687 deaths. The US, Brazil and Russia are the worst-affected countries to date.

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