| 24 May 2024, Friday |

S.Korea opens quarantine centers for students sitting college entrance exam

South Korea launched COVID-19 quarantine centers on Thursday, potentially housing thousands of teenagers infected with the virus before the country’s grueling eight-hour college entrance exam in two weeks.

The highly competitive exam, held only once a year, is seen as a life-changing event for many high school students, as a degree from a prestigious university is seen as the bare minimum for securing one of Asia’s fourth-largest economy’s coveted but limited corporate jobs.

To ensure that every student who wishes to take the test is able to do so, the government established residential quarantine centers in hospitals and other treatment facilities that can accommodate up to 3,000 students.

The mammoth test, which covers subjects ranging from languages to mathematics and science, is scheduled to be taken by approximately 510,000 final-year high school students, or roughly 40% of the total across the country.

The quarantine centers, which opened on Thursday, will house confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as any students who come into contact with an infected person during the next two weeks.

On Thursday, it was unclear how many students, if any, were in quarantine centers. The Education Ministry is not expected to reveal the number of quarantined students who intend to take the test until closer to the November 18 exam date.

On test day, 112 centers will be set up specifically for students who have been quarantined, and 33 hospitals and treatment centers will set up special rooms for students infected with the virus, in addition to the regular 1,255 test centers.

South Korea began relaxing social distancing rules this week as part of a plan to gradually transition to living with COVID-19, aided by high vaccination rates among the adult population.

Almost 90 percent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated, but the rate for children aged 12 to 17 is only 0.6 percent because inoculations for that age group have only recently begun.

  • Reuters