(Cheong Wa Dae)
South Korea has sent 51,000 coronavirus test kits to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in "emergency exports," Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday.
So far, 17 countries have formally requested the items from South Korea, it added, amid the global attention being paid to the country's rapid testing regime that is apparently behind a lower-than-average mortality rate.
The UAE is the country South Korea can ship the kits to the fastest, according to a Cheong Wa Dae official, who added that the move is part of "important international cooperation" on the pandemic.
The kits arrived in the UAE earlier this week, the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The test kit shipments signaled that South Korea is now undertaking an active role in helping foreign countries battle the pandemic -- a change from its earlier inward-looking approach focusing on stemming domestic outbreaks, a senior foreign ministry official said.
"I believe it marks a turning point at which we are embracing a role in helping foreign countries fight the new coronavirus," he told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The official stressed that the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and manufacturers of the test kits repeatedly examined the shipments' potential impact on domestic demand to ensure that the exports will not cause any local supply shortages.
The UAE currently wants to secure more test kits, he added.
"I understand that there are discussions between the UAE and local company officials on the possibility of a long-term contract for additional orders," the official said.
The foreign ministry has supported the UAE's efforts to secure test kits in consideration of the two countries' special strategic partnership, he pointed out.
Recently, a number of countries, mostly developing nations, have issued calls for the foreign ministry to help their efforts to purchase South Korean-made test kits or receive them free of charge under an official development assistance scheme.
"Various requests have come in and the foreign ministry hopes to help the countries. But the first and foremost consideration for us is that any shipments should not influence the domestic supply," the official said.
South Korea has started to gain international recognition for its aggressive containment efforts, which have led to a decline in new infections and a low fatality rate.
The country's COVID-19 caseload stands at 8,320 with 81 fatalities. (Yonhap)