“My sister and I flew out of DC with a layover in Doha, Qatar. Before our flight, we were required to fill out a health screening, a travel history form, and downloaded an app on our cell phones that would track our symptoms and activities before landing at Incheon airport.

As soon as we arrived, everybody got their temperatures checked and public officials wrote down our address and contact information after verifying that we had downloaded the tracking app. Everyone was donned in full PPE. I believe those who were symptomatic would have been tested on the spot, but we did not present with any symptoms so we went on. Since we lived outside of Seoul, we needed to take the train as well. The officials put a label sticker on our arms so other public officials passed the exit doors could recognize us and direct us right away. 

We arrived at the train station on a bus that was exclusively for foreign arrivals, and our train was also exclusively for people coming in from abroad. My grandparents’ empty house, where we are currently staying is in the countryside, was a bit distant from Pohang station. We were worried about how we were going to reach our final destination from the station, but local officials from the city health department already had our information and greeted us as soon as we arrived. They sent us home via ambulance and we arrived late at night, quite exhausted from more than 30 hours of travel.

The next day, we received a call from the public health office and were told that we needed to go get tested. They sent another ambulance to our house, and we arrived at the city public health office. After a more extensive screening, my sister and I each received “quarantine kits” containing disinfectant, face masks, alcohol swabs, a thermometer, garbage bags with special disposal instructions, and a guide for mental health. We then proceeded to get tested for covid-19. The process was very quick, and we were told to expect results within three days. 

We returned home on the ambulance. Our driver asked us how long we were told to wait for results. When I told him 2-3 days, he replied that that was rather slow compared to normal, which was within 24 hours, but the delay was probably due to the influx of people coming in from other countries. Both my sister and I were already thoroughly impressed at how organized, comprehensive, and seamless everything was from transportation to communication, even garbage disposal. 

When we arrived home, we also met with our neighborhood health official, with whom we agreed to communicate every day. We were also given 2 boxes of nonperishable food items and toiletries. My aunt had already sent us food and supplies so we didn’t need anything but we received the boxes all the same, without even having to fill out an application. Other than our transportation from the airport to Pohang station, we were not charged for any of the services—not the three ambulance rides, the testing, or the supplies—everything was covered by the government. Even yesterday, I received two boxes of fresh, environmentally friendly produce from local farmers, all coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture. Over the weekend, I was also asked if I needed transportation to go vote in the general elections. 

We are now waiting for our mandatory quarantine to end on Sunday. While the rules we need to observe are rather strict (we are not allowed to travel beyond 30 meters of our house or face a hefty fine/incarceration, we need to be in constant communication with public officials, and we need to keep strict social distancing rules even within the house), I still feel that it is manageable, especially since we have already been offered so much support. In our health policy class this semester, we had discussed how most countries with the best health outcomes invest in robust social services along with healthcare, and it is a very special experience to see and learn first-hand.”

– Shi Eun Lee, GNu’20, Nu’20
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing