South Korea recloses schools amid surging coronavirus cases

South Korea recloses schools amid surging coronavirus cases
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South Korea has reclosed schools in the Seoul area amid a resurgence of the coronavirus in the metropolitan area.

On Tuesday, the nation reported 280 new cases of the virus. It was the 12th consecutive day the country saw a triple-digit increase in virus infections, The New York Times reported. South Korean schools were initially slated to reopen in February. After the pandemic hit, they closed until May, by which point the virus appeared to be under control and schools began gradually reopening.

However, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae announced Tuesday that the capital region, where about half of the country’s 51 million people live, would need to reclose schools. Yoo sourced the new outbreak to a Seoul church that has clashed with Korean officials over virus restrictions.

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A worshiper at Seoul’s Sarang Jeil Church tested positive on Aug. 12. Since then, officials have detected 915 infections. Health officials have accused the church’s pastor, the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, of deliberately obstructing mitigation efforts by giving contact-tracers false information.

Kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school students will begin remote learning from Wednesday through Sept. 11, Yoo said, according to the Times.

The only exception will be high school seniors, who will continue in-person attendance to prepare for the college entry exams that take place at the end of the year. The exams are treated as a major factor for students’ career prospects, and the Korean Air Force halts all flights on the day of the test to avoid noise disruptions.

Some have called for Korean officials to go even further and allow seniors to take the exam from home online, but Yoo said infrastructure did not exist to allow for this option without the possibility of cheating.

“The priority is to quickly stem the spread of transmissions and stabilize the situation, if only to hold the Dec. 3 national college entrance exam as planned without disruption,” Yoo said, according to the Times.