When it comes to the novel coronavirus, South Korea has taken tracing to a new level. When passengers deplane at Incheon International Airport near Seoul, they pass through mandatory temperature checks and are required to download the health ministry’s self-diagnosis app. Once at their destinations, they must use the app every day to self-report any symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The movements of those who test positive are tracked, and other people in their vicinity receive social-distancing alerts on their phones.
Most Americans would chafe at this type of Big Brother surveillance as contrary to the values of freedom and privacy, even in these disruptive times. To compare South Korea’s infection numbers with those of the United States, however, is to wonder whether combating the virus and reopening the economy could require temporarily eschewing those values in favor of invasive policies.