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(LEAD) S. Korea to resume classes for younger students as planned: vice minister

20:08 May 21, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 10-11)

SEOUL, May 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to resume in-person classes for younger students as scheduled, the vice education minister said Thursday, amid lingering woes over possible new coronavirus transmissions at schools here.

The government plans to push ahead with another round of school reopening scheduled for Wednesday, Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom reaffirmed in a press briefing at the government complex in Sejong.

Under the plan, students in Grade 2 of high schools, Grade 3 of middle schools, Grades 1 and 2 of elementary schools and kindergartens are set to return to class next week, following high school seniors, who returned to school on Wednesday.

Seniors at a high school in the southeastern city of Daegu prepare for class on their first day of school on May 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

Park's remarks come after partial closures at some high schools raised fears that it may not yet be safe for younger students to return to school, while cluster infections traced to nightspots are being reported across the country.

On Wednesday, 66 schools in Incheon, just west of Seoul, ordered students to return home earlier than scheduled after two seniors in the area tested positive following a visit to a karaoke facility.

In Anseong, south of Seoul, education authorities suspended the reopening of nine high schools in a precautionary measure, as a probe to identify a local patient's itinerary was under way.

A school official conducts fever checks for students at a high school in Seoul on May 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

In a briefing on the results of Wednesday's first round of school reopening, Park said that 95.2 percent of the country's 442,141 seniors had attended school. Some 2,277 of 2,363 schools across the country were open as of Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Of the 21,191 students who didn't go to school, 115 were placed under self-isolation by health authorities, 2,099 were advised not to attend following self-monitoring results and 737 could not enter school premises after showing symptoms. There were also 1,198 students who chose to study at home.

The vice minister said that of the 1,257 students who were checked for the virus, one student in the southeastern city of Daegu tested positive.

Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom speaks at a press briefing at the government complex in Sejong on May 21, 2020. (Yonhap)

The country's emergency services said that 262 students were sent to COVID-19 screening stations from school on Thursday after showing symptoms like fever and sore throat.

Of these, on-site health workers carried out tests on 229 as a precautionary move, with those suffering milder discomfort sent home to rest. The actual number of students tested was up sharply from 127 checked the day before, it said.

The country's new school year, which usually starts in March, had been postponed by 79 days after schools across the country were closed to prevent infections among students.

The government announced the reopening of schools as new daily infections were slowing. Students, who have been taking online classes since April, are set to resume in-person classes by June 8 in phases.


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