South Korea has the capacity to test around 20,000 people each day – more than any other country in the world.
Officials gave permission to four companies to make kits, with the country desperate to stop the killer virus spreading. It also uses drive-through testing centres.
Figures show the country has now tested up to 300,000 residents, at a rate of 5,000 per 1million inhabitants, according to reports.
In contrast, the rate in Britain is around seven times lower – at just 700 per 1million, MailOnline can reveal.
South Korea’s outbreak – which has seen almost 8,500 cases and fewer than 100 deaths – has curtailed in the past week.
Fewer than 100 patients are being diagnosed each day, which leading scientists say is because of the country’s rigorous testing programme.
Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease specialist based at Korea University, told Science magazine: ‘Lab testing is essential to control an emerging infectious disease.’
The coronavirus crisis began in China at the end of December, and saw hundreds of millions of people locked down in a desperate attempt to contain the crisis.
But World Health Organization experts said it was Beijing’s decision to test all suspected cases and then isolate their contacts was more important than the country-wide quarantines.
The UN agency’s assistant director general Bruce Aylward told New Scientist testing ‘stopped transmission in China, not the big travel restrictions and lockdowns’.
More than 80,000 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in China and at least 3,000 patients died of the infection.
Italy is at the centre of Europe’s ever-growing coronavirus outbreak, with more than 31,000 confirmed cases and at least 2,500 deaths.
At the beginning of the spiralling crisis at the end of February, health officials tried to test every suspected case.
Virologists praised the approach, saying the strategy of ‘over-testing’ was ‘right and sensible’. Around 130,000 people have already been tested in Italy.
Authorities have already managed to completely halt the outbreak in one small town near Venice because of the rigorous approach.
The Financial Times reports that Vò – 45miles (72km) east of the tourist hotspot, has had no new cases for 48 hours.
And the outbreak in Lombardy, the northern Italian region that has suffered the most from the deadly infection, is slowing down, officials say.
At the other end of the scale, the US has repeatedly been criticised for not testing enough people – with around 50,000 tests carried out so far.
Some states, such as Alabama and Delaware, have swabbed fewer than 100 people, according to an independent tracker.
President Donald Trump has declared a national state of emergency and announced additional measures to expand testing.
Now, all US states can make, validate and use their own tests rather than wait for the approval of the FDA – the US regulatory body.
Health and state officials have widely blamed the testing shortage for the steep rise in US cases.
They say it both delayed public knowledge of just how many cases there were and allowed the disease to continue to spread from unwitting carriers.