South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case on January 20th one day before the U.S. and several days before European countries like France.
Since then, it has seen three major waves of the virus.
The first wave broke out in February.
Infections were concentrated in the southeastern city of Daegu, stemming almost entirely from a single source the religious group "Shincheonji".
Thousands of cases were together part of a SINGLE cluster infection.
But that allowed a swift, simple response: testing every church member preemptively.
In the meantime, locals made sure the virus didn't spread within or outside the city.
"Daegu has not imposed any aggressive legislative measures, nor imposed a travel ban. It was rather the public's collective, voluntary participation that helped stabilize the situation."
With that, the first strong, but short, wave, was over.
It was late August when the virus resurged notably, this time, in Seoul.
The second wave is attributed to two origins: the Sarang Jeil Church and a political rally.
But unlike the first wave, the virus traveled outside its initial sources,… leading to a series of other cluster infections in related facilities and communities, known as "chain infections".
"This is why experts have made desperate warnings to keep the capital area safe. It has more people, meaning more elderly people. And it is also connected to many other parts of the country."
This is when contact tracing got increasingly difficult and the proportion of patients with an unknown path of infection increased to 20 percent.
During the second wave, the number of daily infections never broke the first wave's record - 909.
But it lasted longer,… resulting in more patients overall.
The second wave ended only after it developed into a third wave the strongest so far.
It shattered the record of the first wave,.. by breaking the 12-hundred mark in daily infections for the first time.
And it could last longer than the second wave as it is still ongoing.
All these were inevitable given the new transmission pattern.
"The most critical cause of the recent outbreaks are personal gatherings."
That means the entire capital region is now affected, as opposed to particular communities or facilities as seen in the previous waves.
Only intense restrictions like banning gatherings of five or more helped slow the spike.
"In between these first, second, and third waves, were several minor outbreaks, perhaps we can call them waves 1.five and 2.five.
Those outbreaks were proof that the virus had never fully dissipated from the country.
And experts say, they are likely to continue for the time being, even after the third wave comes to an end.
Lee Kyung-eun, Arirang news."