2022-03-15 17:36:40

The “World First Innovation” Series of Goyang City to Respond to COVID-19: Specimen Collection and Testing System as a Pre-emptive Response --Operation of Drive-Through COVID-19 Testing Station

The mass infection of COVID-19 in South Korea in mid-February 2020 prompted a surge of demand for testing nationwide, including in the city of Goyang (population: 1.07 million). At existing screening stations, 30 minutes to 2 hours was required to complete a specimen collection. During the process, there would also be frequent contacts between medical staff and suspected individuals, exposing the medical team to higher risk of infection. Recognising the need to develop a prompt and safe method of testing and diagnosis, the city decided to install drive-through testing stations at open spaces.

This approach is inspired by the drive-through counters of the fast-food industry. At a drive-through testing station, motorists drive to several stops where staff in protective gowns, masks, and face shields register them, check the temperatures, and take the samples. The driver does not need to get out of the cars during the whole process.

Except for the wintry cold the staff had to endure, the drive-through approach has many benefits. As the stations are located in open spaces, there is no need for negative pressure equipment or frequent change of protective gear. It also removes the risk of secondary infection between people waiting in line and the problem of parking-space shortage – because people tend to drive their own cars to an indoor testing station. With this approach, the time needed for a sample collection has been reduced to 10 minutes, contributing to an increase from 100 to 400 tests conducted per day at the maximum.

Realising the limitation of this approach, the city has also adopted, for instance, walk-through and window-through methods for residents that are physically-challenged, do not own a car, or do not know how to drive.

The initiative’s success in the city has promoted its application in 70 cities and provinces in South Korea. In addition, Goyang has also applied this drive-through approach to revitalise the local economy, such as setting up drive-through agricultural markets.

This initiative is highly relevant to SDGs 3 (good health and wellbeing) and 11 (sustainable cities and communities).