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With more school outbreaks, health concerns grow

National 09:36 April 13, 2021

SEJONG, April 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has recently experienced a flare-up in virus cases, with outbreaks occuring at schools that opened in early March for the spring semester, putting to test the ability of health and education authorities to keep schools safely open.

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae visited a high school in Anyang, south of Seoul, on Monday to inspect efforts to contain the virus in and out of classrooms.

She had originally planned to visit an elementary school, but changed the plan at the last minute, the ministry said, because "high school students have more activities outside school and there was a need to check the overall situation."

Since the new school year started in March, middle and high schools have reported more infection cases than elementary schools.

The undated file photo shows the gate is closed at a school that has switched to remote learning only. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, one official in a middle school in Dongdaemun Ward tested positive for the coronavirus last week, and has since infected four students. One school official and the official's three student contacts contracted the virus in a high school in Jongno Ward.

The two schools have resumed online-only instructions until Monday and Friday, respectively.

A cluster infection in a cram school in Daejeon, a central city about 150 kilometers south of Seoul, had reported 95 cases as of Sunday.

Of the total number, 68 people are students from 16 middle and high schools. Health authorities found out that several students in one high school that reported many COVID-19 patients did not wear masks at all or failed to wear them properly.

The undated file photo shows students line up to recieve coronavirus testing. (Yonhap)

The ministry said one COVID-19 patient has been shown to infect 2.49 people out of 100,000 school officials and students in middle and high schools, higher than 1.48 in elementary schools.

The finding is against the common belief that elementary school kids are more prone to infections simply because they go to school more often than older kids who spend more time in virtual learning.

As of last Thursday, the number of middle and high schools that had switched to online-only was 52, 1.6 times the number for elementary schools.

The ministry conceded that it was challenging to make sure that older students wear masks and keep distance from each other once they step outside the school.

A ministry official said the ministry has been sharing notes with education offices nationwide and is looking for better ways to help stem virus transmissions and improve school safety.

A school official checks the temperature of a student in a high school in Seoul on March 2, 2021. (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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