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Schools in confusion as figures spike

A class in an elementary school in Gwangju holds a ceremony to welcome new students on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
A class in an elementary school in Gwangju holds a ceremony to welcome new students on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Schools in Korea are scrambling in confusion as the country’s COVID-19 cases continue to rapidly increase.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, 15,337 students in Seoul were newly confirmed to have COVID-19 between Feb. 28 and Thursday, while 1,417 school faculty members in Seoul were also confirmed.

The tally has been on a steep rise.

Though there were 2,883 new confirmed cases in students in Seoul on Tuesday, the number rose to 6,240 on Wednesday and 6,214 on Thursday. Among the number of confirmed cases in Korea, some 25 percent are students. According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, there are 243,628 confirmed cases as of Saturday midnight, where 56,366 patients, or 23.1 percent, were aged 18 or under.

On the first of the new school year, 158,171 students in Korea could not attend classes due to isolation or confirmation of COVID-19.

Though schools are continuing to run face-to-face classes based on the Education Ministry’s recommendation, schools and parents are complaining about the lack of emergency measures.

The Korean Teacher and Education Worker Union released a casebook of complaints from schools.

According to the union, one middle school has six teachers running online classes though they were confirmed to have COVID-19, as the school had not been able to hire substitute teachers.

“It is rather fortunate that I was confirmed now, when we can have online classes,” one of the confirmed teachers said through the union.

While the Education Ministry has advised schools to switch to online-only classes if needed until Friday, from March 14, schools are set to have person-to-person classes. The ministry previously announced schools should refrain from going online as a precautionary measure.

Also, while the ministry has been advising students to test themselves twice a week with self-testing kits, some are complaining the testing is “almost mandatory.”

“My kid’s teacher said all students must test themselves for public safety,” an online user wrote on a website frequented by school parents. “We are pressured into testing though the government said it is not mandatory.”

Schools are giving out testing kits to students to test themselves. Students can update their test results through a mobile application and share the results with schools.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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