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SEOUL, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean universities are taking various measures to halt the spread of the new coronavirus, including the separation of Chinese students deemed at risk of the viral disease, officials said Monday.
A recent decision by Seoul National University (SNU) to assemble all Chinese students who have recently visited China in one dormitory building appears to be the most radical of them all.
Under the decision announced by SNU's Global Residence, all Chinese students who have visited China's Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus, in the past month or who have been to other parts of China in the last two weeks, will be sent to one dormitory building on the university's Gwanak Campus in southern Seoul. People currently living in the dorm building can move into other buildings, if they want.
"We have decided to temporarily separate the living space of some dormitory residents," a school official said, referring to Chinese students with recent records of home visits.
"Including those who plan to return (from China), about 150 students will be subject to the temporary separation."
As the students facing separation cannot be seen as virus carriers, however, they won't be barred from shared dormitory facilities, such as school restaurants and stores, the official noted.
As the school's decision was made known, some students expressed concern, saying anybody in need of separation should instead be sent to their own home or a hospital.
"There has been no public notice on whether all shared facilities of the dormitory, including the convenience store and the restaurant, are subject to the separation rule. Information should be fully disclosed to ensure all students won't be nervous," a Korean student living in the school dorm said.
Another student, who resides in the dorm building designated as Chinese-only, also expressed embarrassment after being told by school authorities to move out of the building immediately.
Chung-Ang University, also in southern Seoul, has banned all students with fever or respiratory symptoms from returning to the school's dormitory until such symptoms disappear.
All residents in Chung-Ang University's dorm will be checked for fever and asked to submit chest x-rays taken within two weeks, while any students who visited China's Hubei Province during the winter vacation are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The university also installed two thermal imaging cameras at the entrance of its dorm to screen all residents.
"Any dorm residents who show fever and other symptoms related to the new coronavirus will be quarantined outside the campus," a school official said.
According to the ministry's data, 69,287 Chinese students were studying at South Korean universities and colleges as of April last year, accounting for 43.3 percent of the 160,165 foreign students here.
With a large number of Chinese students set to return to campus after winter vacation, many schools are on maximum alert.
For instance, Kangwon National University in Chuncheon, east of Seoul, has recently sent out emails and text messages to all of its 386 Chinese students asking them to delay their return from home visits as much as possible.
Kangwon National University will also consider quarantining Chinese students returning from China for 14 days.
Inje University in Busan said it plans to recommend that its 73 Chinese students postpone their return from China to the end of this month.
About 150 to 200 Chinese students attending Daejin University in Pocheon, north of Seoul, have been asked not to buy airplane tickets until the school makes a formal notice, while 600 Chinese students at Busan University of Foreign Studies have been asked not to return to campus until after the end of this month.
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