South Korea orders schools to shut as COVID-19 cases spike – education
South Korea ordered the closure of schools starting Tuesday in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas as it battles its worst new coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began, surpassing the previous peak in February.
Schools in the capital region would switch classes online until the end of the month, in the latest surge in social distancing measures that have so far failed to reverse the rise in infections.
The school’s closure is a step toward imposing the Phase 3 social distancing rules, a move that would essentially block Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said such a step requires careful review, as the government comes under increasing pressure to do more to accelerate the rise in infections.
“The government will not hesitate to make the decision to upgrade to Phase 3 if deemed necessary, as it takes into account the opinions of related ministries, local governments and experts,” he said at a meeting of health officials according to a your office transcript.
The Korea Disease Prevention and Control Agency (KDCA) reported 718 new coronavirus cases on Monday, down from a record daily increase of 1,030 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 682 were transmitted locally, he said.
Most of the new cases occurred in Seoul, the neighboring port city of Incheon, and in Gyeonggi province, home to more than 25 million people.
South Korea’s total infections now stand at 43,484, with 587 deaths.
The government launched a massive tracking effort that involved hundreds of soldiers, police and officials to help track down carriers of the virus.
Health authorities said a recent wave of infections focused mainly on gatherings with friends and family, limiting the effectiveness of social distancing rules.
Taken from the reproduction rate, or the number of people who become infected for each positive case, the number of daily infections could rise to 1,200, KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said in a briefing.
“It is more important than ever to actively participate in social distancing and minimize the chances of contact,” Jeong said. “Please refrain from visiting crowded places and cancel all gatherings with family and friends.”
Some experts said the government and the public needed to do more.
“This is the time to send a powerful message to the public, so that they can take voluntary action,” said Kim Dong-hyun, president of the Korean Epidemiological Society and a professor at Hallym University School of Medicine.
Under a Phase 3 shutdown, only essential workers would be allowed into offices and meetings would be limited to fewer than 10 people.