Report: The South Korean approach to managing COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care settings and to maintaining community-based care services

By Jae Yeon Lyu, research assistant at CPEC-LSE

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in residential care settings:

To guarantee that self-isolation works in residential settings, any residents that display symptoms of COVID-19 should first be isolated in a separate room. Workers should then call the public health centre to ensure a test takes place. After being tested, people who need to self-isolate can enter quarantine facilities such as the Human Resources Development Institute and the English Learning Campus which are both located in Seoul. Care workers from the Seoul Public Agency for Seoul Services will be isolating with them order to provide care. Local governments are planning to collaborate with other private organizations to provide consistent care.

Once a person who has tested positive has left the care home, workers should clean and disinfect the room. Anyone who has had contact with the patient should self-isolate and can only come back to work after testing negative for COVID-19. Any other service users who have had contact with the patient should self-isolate in a separate room until they can provide a negative test.

To prevent the spread of the virus, most social welfare centres and care homes have banned visits in order to prevent mass COVID-19 infections.

Source: [in Korean]

In Gyungsang-do, the region with the second highest recorded rate of COVID-19 cases in South Korea, recently quarantined 564 social welfare care homes to prevent a massive Coronavirus infection. For two weeks, every care home user was prevented from going out and all staff worked for two weeks without leaving the facility. Workers were given additional financial incentives and the government provided masks, automatic hand sanitiser, etc. All staff, even if they were not working, were advised to self-isolate. As a result, there were no COVID-19 cases during this period among 560 social welfare centers (4 centres had COVID-19 case before being quarantined).

Source: [In Korean]

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also tested every patient in care homes and nursing hospitals in Dae-gu to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Source: [In Korean]

Maintaining community-based care services:

As many social welfare centres have been closed, and to guarantee that vulnerable people isolating at home still get the care they need, social workers are making phone calls to ensure their clients are well. They are also arranging for food to be delivered to their clients and that their needs are met to avoid anybody gathering at social welfare centres. Local Governments are also arranging for calls to be made very day to care homes to monitor any problems that have occurred overnight.

Source: [In Korean]

Managing workforce absences

In order to manage workforce absences due to COVID-19, and to meet specified needs and provide additional intensive care service, the Public Health Agency for Social Service of each region is recruiting volunteers to help.

In Dae-gu, the city with the most COVID-19 cases in South Korea, the government has recruited people who can provide care. This includes care givers and social workers, along with members of the general public. Their job is to provide care to disabled people who are in self-isolation, 24 hours a day for 14 days. The local government pays their wages and provides them with masks, gloves, and protective clothing.

Source: [In Korean]

Social workers who are self-isolating and cannot work, are able to provide services over the phone. This counts towards their usual working hours which ensures they are still able to earn a wage.

As part of special measures to respond to COVID-19, if there are not enough workers volunteering to act as carers, families or relatives who live with disabled patients can do this work instead. In this case, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare will register them as temporary care workers and they will be paid the same wage as their professional equivalents. They will also be provided with two hours of safety instructions by the quarantine facilities, health centres or hospitals.  If families are not able to help disabled patients, then these patients will be able to enter quarantine facilities.

Source: [In Korean]

Suggested citation: Lyu Jy (2020) Report; The South Korean approach to managing COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care settings and to maintaining community-based care services. Article in, International Long-Term Care Policy Network, CPEC-LSE. Available at

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