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(LEAD) S. Korean schools to reopen next week as virus infections fall

All News 16:34 May 04, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 2, 4-7, photo)

SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Monday announced plans to reopen schools starting next week, more than two months after schools were closed in a precautionary measure against the new coronavirus.

"Starting on May 20, which is two weeks after key holidays in May, we will push to (reopen schools) in a phased and sequential process," Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said at a press briefing.

A soldier disinfects a desk at an elementary school in the southern city of Daegu on May 1, 2020. (Yonhap)

Under the plan, high school seniors will return to school on May 13, while other grades will return to school gradually in the following weeks.

Students in grade 2 of high school, grade 3 of middle school and grades 1 and 2 in elementary schools will return on May 20, while those in grade 1 of high school, grade 2 of middle school and grades 3 and 4 in elementary schools will go back on May 27. Students in grade 1 of middle school and grades 5 and 6 in elementary school will return on June 1.

Yoo said the government considered several factors, such as having enough time to assess the impact of the long holiday in late April and early May as well as the academic needs of high school seniors and a child care vacuum for young students.

South Koreans are on an extended holiday, with key public holidays and calendar events, such as Buddha's Birthday, Labor Day and Children's Day, all falling in late April or early May this year.

The long holiday has kept health authorities on alert over possible transmissions as people travel across the country.

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae speaks in a press briefing at the government complex in Seoul on May 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

Students have been taking online classes since April. The new school year usually starts in March here, but the government postponed it by five weeks or more as part of efforts to fight the virus pandemic.

It marked the first time in the country's 70-year history of education that students began the new school year through online classes.

The school reopening comes as concerns over new infections are weakening.

Daily infections, which peaked at 909 on Feb. 29, have fallen to single-digit figures in the past few days.

As of Monday, South Korea has reported 10,801 cases. It reported its first case on Jan. 20.


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