The Korean government has been among the most aggressive in taking the needed measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus inside its borders. Korea was one of the first nations to feel the brute force of the pandemic, and was, for a short time, the world’s epicenter for COVID-19. But by quickly imposing strict containment measures, including extensive testing across the nation, the country was able to test more than half-a-million Koreans by mid-April at a time when many nations had not even begun to implement defensive measures against the virus.

Korea is once again at the forefront of the global response to the pandemic, becoming the first country to publish a detailed timeline of talks with drug-maker Gilead Sciences, Inc., to obtain stocks of the COVID-19 treatment remdesivir. Gilead has published research showing that as a treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral treatment has been linked to an improvement in clinical recovery and a 62 percent reduction in the risk of mortality when compared to the standard treatment of care without the drug.

A recent announcement from Seoul states that the government has begun distributing stocks of the treatment that have been donated by Gilead and will soon additional discussions to purchase more supplies in August, becoming the first nation to disclose a timeline for its talks with Gilead.

Because remdesivir is among the few known treatments that improve the chances of a successful recovery from COVID-19, the demand for the drug is expected to be exceedingly high. It has won emergency-use authorization from several nations, and full approval in Japan, after clinical trials demonstrated a reduction in the number of times patients remained in the hospital.

According to the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only patients who are severely ill with COVID-19 are eligible to receive the treatment, which is administered intravenously.  A Korean panel of health experts has found that anti-viral treatments like remdesivir are more effective in given in the early stages of the disease. For that reason, Korean health officials say that patients who developed symptoms in less than 10 days and were suffering from pneumonia and a shortage of oxygen would be eligible for the treatment.