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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 5)

All News 09:01 May 05, 2020

The long battle

Life returns to normal after the long holiday ends on Tuesday. While phasing out rigorous quarantine and social restriction rules, the country has been advised to improve everyday cleanliness habits. "People must not ease up on hygiene and quarantine practices in public spaces," Jeong Eun-kyeong, chief of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged.

The Education Ministry at the same time announced a staggered back-to-school schedule for 5.45 million students. High school seniors will be first to return to classrooms May 13. Others will return to schools in waves from the following week.

Education offices in each district will be responsible for arranging rotational classes or a combination of online and offline classes by grade to avoid crowding according to the regional situations for the virus.

Schools and education authorities claim they are ready to accept students after multiple sanitizations, desk rearrangements and stocking up on masks. Still parents are nervous about group infections once schools open. Small children could be negligent in hygiene while older kids can be rebellious, requiring constant care from teachers.

The government has gained a sense of confidence in containing the spread of the virus. New infection cases have stayed in the single digits or fallen off altogether on some days. Moreover, normalization of everyday business activities is critical to preventing further economic damage. Educators approved of the school reopening due to the disruption of their curriculum and the deficiencies of remote schooling — as well as understandable jitters among seniors as regards to their readiness for college applications this year.

Risks remain. Infections continue to be found in people returning from overseas, and there have been 10 cases in which the infection channel could not be identified. A resurgence of the coronavirus can happen. Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun reminded the public that the battle with the virus is ongoing. Even when life returns to normal, it cannot be the absolutely same as before the epidemic. Everyone must adhere to a new normal. The government must speedily return to strict quarantine rules on any signs of another outbreak. Plan B must be readied to be activated immediately.

The Education Ministry must promptly shift to online schooling if infections break out in schools. Each individual must be responsible for their own health care. Covid-19 has been unpredictable in many ways. All-around consciousness and readiness is the only strategy to weather the long battle.
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