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South Koreans are using smartphone apps to avoid the novel coronavirus

A man wearing a mask to prevent the coronavirus is reflected in the mirrors, in Seoul, South Korea, February 24, 2020.
Apps let users in South Korea see where Covid-19 patients have been.
  • Amanda Shendruk
By Amanda Shendruk

Visual journalist

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

As coronavirus cases surge in South Korea, the country is turning to smartphone apps to avoid the contagion.

Recently developed apps using public government data allow users to see how close they are to where a confirmed Covid-19 patient has been. They can also see the date a patient was confirmed with the disease, demographic data about the patient, and, crucially, some of their location history.

At least one app, called Corona 100m, will also alert a user if they come within 100 m (328 ft) of a location visited by someone who’s had Covid-19.

Developers of such offerings have seen a surge in downloads, with their apps ranked among the week’s most-downloaded items in the country’s Google Play app store. “The installs are increasing about 20,000 every hour,” Bae Won-Seok, a creator of Corona 100m, told CNN Business. His app has been downloaded more than 1 million times since it was launched less than three weeks ago.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 800 new coronavirus cases today (Feb. 29). That brings the number of infected in the country to 3,150, the largest outbreak outside of mainland China. Seventy-one percent of those cases are in the city of Daegu, with many linked to a religious group the government describes as a cult.

South Koreans aren’t alone in harnessing smartphones to combat the virus. A Japanese medical advice company has made its app free for a limited time to allow users to consult with doctors about their symptoms. The app prevents people from overtaxing medical centers and can gather advice from its roster of nearly 120 registered doctors in about 30 minutes.

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