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Infection cases at Daejeon school unnerves education authorities

All News 12:19 July 01, 2020

DAEJEON, July 1 (Yonhap) -- Three infection cases of school kids in Daejeon have sent officials and educators to scurry for measures to curb transmission among young children Wednesday, as they might be the country's first school transmissions.

On Tuesday night, the Daejeon city government said two pupils were confirmed to have caught the virus from a peer at Cheondong Elementary School in Daejeon, about 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

One is a classmate of the school's first patient, who was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 on Monday, and the other is believed to have come in contact with the first patient at the school's gymnasium.

Although how the virus has spread hasn't been determined by the health authorities, the infection cases of young pupils have raised questions if quarantine measures at schools are safe and strong enough to protect kids.

The country completed its gradual, three-week reopening of schools nationwide on June 8, with a variety of safety measures to ensure social distancing and stem the virus's spread.

On June 23, the government extended a measure to reduce classroom crowding until mid-July, as the country continued to see a worrisome uptick in coronavirus cases in Seoul and its adjacent cities.

Elementary and middle schools are required to cap the number of students at one-third of the total student body and high schools at two-thirds.

A disinfection crew sprays disinfectant at Cheondong Elementary School in Daejeon on June 30, 2020. (Yonhap)

A disinfection crew sprays disinfectant at Cheondong Elementary School in Daejeon on June 30, 2020. (Yonhap)

But some educators have voiced concern that children and teachers are constantly being exposed to potential infection risks, as some children do not comply with distancing guidelines and do not wear face masks during recess.

One elementary school teacher said, "It is near impossible to control kids even during break time to put on their masks and keep a distance from each other, especially when it is hot."

As of Wednesday morning, the test results of 159 contacts of the first patient have turned up negative. As more testings are being carried out, it is still too early to conclude how far the virus has spread.

"We feel perplexed to learn that there is still a possibility of infection at school despite tough quarantine measures in place," said an official from the city's education office, adding the office will "try our best to ensure schools a safe place and to stop the spread."

Quarantine authorities ordered a total of 107 institutes and business establishments frequently visited by young students in the city to shut down until July 5 to curb the spread of the virus.


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