Despite the cluster outbreak traced to Seoul's nightlife hub Itaewon, South Korea has announced that it will reopen schools next week with precautionary measures such as reduction of classroom capacity and use of protective masks. Vice-Education Minister Park Baeg-beom said at the press conference that his ministry was "not considering" any further delay in the reopening of schools, slated to begin in phases from May 20 onwards.
Earlier, as of May 7, South Korea postponed the reopening of the schools for at least a week due to the cluster outbreak at Itaewon. However, the officials now stressed that the high school seniors had to return to school, as they were supposed to prepare for a year-end college entrance exam. As many as 14 people, including nine students, were infected by the 25-year-old tutor living in Incheon city, who had visited one of five gay clubs in Itaewon, the hotspot for infection, during the April 30- May 5 weekends, as per local media reports.
Officials tested over 1,400 people who had the contact or were exposed to the infected students. Further, over 1,000 people attended the same church as some of those students who tested positive in the cluster outbreak region. The Seoul education office said in the statement that nearly 25,000 private academies in the city had to be inspected to ensure that the healthy safety norms were adhered to. This comes after the Education Ministry released the data that showed at least 41 school employees, including teachers, went clubbing in Itaewon in between April 24 to May 6. An additional 800 went to Itaewon the same period to dine, as per the reports.
Health authorities said at the daily COVID-19 briefing that this week was extremely crucial in South Korea's battle against a possible second wave of the coronavirus. This comes amid the fear of the second wave of infection as the strict social distancing rules were eased. The country's massive testing and invasive contact tracing efforts have helped curb the spread of a major outbreak in February linked to a church. Therefore, the authorities look forward to containment measures while also resuming the schools, as per the media reports.
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