S.Korean schools to tighten rules amid rise in Covid cases

The South Korean Education Ministry on Wednesday declared a three-week intensive period for checking Covid-19 norms in all schools, universities and private educational facilities amid surge in infections.

The declaration came as the number of Covid cases among students and teachers has recently exceeded 2,000 in one and a half months after the spring semester began in early March, Yonhap reported.

During the special period, students, teachers and school officials will be asked to thoroughly observe the five basic anti-virus norms — mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing; social distancing; taking virus tests swiftly; staying away from closed and crowded places; and eating food quietly in designated places — the ministry said.

All schools will be asked to strengthen supervision over their students’ out-of-school activities and immediately remove anybody with suspected coronavirus symptoms from classes and school work, the ministry said.

It also emphasized the importance of frequent ventilation of classrooms and other common areas, as well as monitoring of outside lecturers.

In Seoul, which accounts for about a third of the nation’s new daily Covid cases ranging recently from 600 to 700, the ministry will preemptively conduct coronavirus tests on students, teachers and school officials, regardless of suspected symptoms, beginning early next month.

For the preemptive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, special three-person teams comprising nurses and medical technologists will visit schools in the capital, the ministry explained.

The PCR tests will also be recommended for dormitory students and employees of private educational facilities, it added. At present, only those with symptoms and those who have come into contact with infected persons are required to take Covid-19 tests.

Despite the planned expansion of PCR tests, however, rapid self-test kits for Covid-19 won’t be introduced to local schools for now due to their unproven accuracy, Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hae said.

“There is not yet a self-test kit that has been approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, and several experts still have disagreements on the accuracy and effectiveness of the kits. Thus, (the government) is very careful in introducing those kits to schools,” Yoo said.