Some schools postpone physical reopening due to virus fears

May 21, 2020, 08:10 am

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Students head to Kyungbock High School in downtown Seoul while keeping distance from each other on May 20, 2020./ Photographed by Jung Jae-hoon

AsiaToday reporters Lee Joo-hyung & Jang Ji-young 

Teachers lined up at the gate of Kyungbock High School in downtown Seoul on Wednesday morning, welcoming students back after a delay of nearly three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. High school seniors became the first group to attend in-person classes under the government’s phased reopening plan. 

Students were happy to see friends and teachers after a long time. Two supervising teachers with thermometers welcomed seniors at the school gate, checking each student and teacher for signs of fever. Students in face masks were able to enter their classrooms only after passing by a thermal imaging camera set up at the entrance of the main building.

However, some schools were forced to postpone physical reopening due to virus fears. The education offices in Incheon and Gyeonggi Province sent some students home. Incheon’s five wards – Michuhol Ward, Jung Ward, Dong Ward, Namdong Ward and Yeonsu Ward – told all senior students at 66 high schools to go home after two high school seniors were confirmed in the morning to have contracted the virus. 

“Some patients were found to have visited crowded facilities and their movements have not been fully identified” an official of the Incheon Metropolitan City Office of Education said. “We have sent all the students home due to infection concerns. The education office in Gyeonggi Province also stopped seniors at nine high schools in Anseong City from attending, citing concerns over the spread of the virus after a male resident in his 20s tested positive on Tuesday. 

Despite sporadic outbreaks of COVID-19, health authorities said they would not return to strict social distancing immediately since they have prepared for reopening of schools with sporadic infection cases in consideration. “Even if sporadic infections occur, it is not appropriate to return to the stricter social distancing system,” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing. 

However, health authorities remain vigilant against the spread of the virus in hospitals due to their closed environment. Four nurses working at Samsung Medical Center tested positive, sparking concerns about another infection cluster. “There have been no additional confirmed cases other than four nurses,” said Jeong Eun-kyeong, Director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). “We need to continue monitoring for at least one week to assess whether the nurse cases could develop into mass infections at the hospital, given a two-week incubation period,” Jeong said. 

Meanwhile, the country reported 32 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to the KCDC, bringing the total caseload to 11,110. The daily new infections were the highest since May 11 when single-day infection cases hit 35. 

#reopening #high schools #seniors #COVID-19 #fears 
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