On May 27, 2020, students in South Korea were welcomed to schools after restrictions were eased through the country. This was the second phase of reopening the schools. However, by next day, the highest daily figure (in two months) of 79 new cases was recorded. By Friday, with further 58 new cases, the total number nationwide spiked to 11,402. This is, reportedly, the biggest spike in weeks.
Second phase of reopening schools
Thousands of students had returned to their classrooms in South Korea. Kindergarteners, first and second graders of elementary school, middle school seniors and second-year high school students. “Parents and teachers urged the government Thursday to postpone reopening of schools as more and more students are confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus inside and outside of schools,” Korea times reported.
According to data from the Ministry of Education, 838 schools among the total 20,902 nationwide that were supposed to resume their classes on the same day remained closed in cities including Seoul, Bucheon in Gyeonggi Province and Gumi in North Gyeongsang Province, as of 10 a.m., Thursday. In Bucheon, 251 schools were closed, while 117 in Seoul and 182 in Gumi postponed their reopening.
Lenient Infection control measures
Majority of these cases are linked to a distribution center outside Seoul. The warehouse run by Coupang, South Korea’s e-commerce firm, was not fully equipped to take care of the safety measures. According to the reports, “Officials have said the facility was not strictly complying with infection control measures. Health officials even discovered traces of Covid-19 on workers’ shoes and clothes.”
Statements also confirm that, one student in Seoul, whose mother worked at the Coupang warehouse, had been found to have the virus.
Report by the Korea Times also talks about a high school student being infected with the virus. As quoted by the daily, “In Seoul, a high school senior who started to attend class last week tested positive for the virus, and his school and nearby ones as well as an elementary school his younger brother is attending were also closed down.”
South Korea had the situation under control
The country’s “trace, test and treat” programme had effectively brought the situation under control. The extensive measures had resulted in curbing the virus drastically. However, the biggest spike in weeks, have brought the restrictions back. Public parks and museums across Seoul and its surrounding cities have now been closed. Businesses are being advised to opt for flexible working, and citizens are directed to avoid mass gatherings.
Na Myung-joo, Chairman of the National Association of Parents for True Education, in his statement to the Korea Times, urged to reconsider remote learning. He said, “Except for the lower grades of elementary schools and kindergarteners who are in urgent need of emergency care services, and high school seniors ahead of the national college entrance exam, it will be safe for the rest of the students to conduct remote classes for the time being.”