By Park Boram
SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- All schools from kindergartens to high schools will resume full in-person classes next month while group activities and school trips will also be allowed again, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said Wednesday.
The plans mark a complete rollback of nearly two years of low- to high-level COVID-19 restrictions on in-person school classes and activities in line with the lifting of all social distancing requirements, except the mask mandate, this week.
Starting on May 1, all classes from kindergarten to high school level will take place in person while all online classes, except those designed for specific educational purposes, will come to an end, the minister said in a briefing.
Small-scale group activities will be allowed again while school trips will also be permitted upon consultation with school members.
By end-May, schools will no longer be advised to have students get a virus self-test before coming to school or conduct internal contact tracing. Those with COVID-19 symptoms or at high health risks will still be advised to get a rapid antigen test when needed.
Mobile polymerase chain reaction test labs at schools will also be phased out.
Yoo said the education ministry plans to bring schools fully back to normalcy through a three-stage normalization scheme, comprised of the preparation phase by the end of April, the implementation phase by May 22 and the stabilization phase through the end of the first semester.
As the country's omicron wave has been on the downside, the daily infection average for students below the university level came down to 14,984 in the second week of April, after peaking at 62,284 in the third week of March, according to education officials.
As of April 11, 93.4 percent of students below the university level were taking classes at school in person, up from 82.1 percent recorded on March 7.
Under the school normalization plan, universities will also be advised to go back to in-person classes upon consultation with students.
In line with the lifting of social distancing rules, all distancing requirements at university classrooms will also be scrapped, except those decided by each school, starting next month, the education ministry also said.
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