| 20 May 2024, Monday |

S.Korean teens drive up COVID-19 cases ahead of full school reopening

After a high rise in infections among students, South Korea announced on Wednesday that it would increase COVID-19 testing in schools, weeks ahead of a plan to reopen all of the country’s schools.

The increase coincides with the implementation of new social distancing laws targeted at a staged return to normal as part of the country’s objective to gradually transition to living with COVID-19 as a result of high vaccination rates.

South Korea has vaccinated approximately 90% of its adult population, but only recently began inoculating children aged 12 to 17 years old, with only 0.6 percent of this age group receiving both doses thus far.

“There is a growing concern as the frequency of new cluster outbreaks has been increasing, centered on educational facilities such as private tuition centers and schools,” Interior and Safety Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said.

The government would expand the use of portable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests for COVID-19 in schools in Seoul and neighboring regions, and mobilize more virus-prevention personnel in overcrowded schools, he said.

South Korea plans to fully reopen schools nationwide from Nov. 22.

The country reported 2,667 new cases for Tuesday, an increase of more than 1,000 from the day earlier. Nearly one fourth of the new cases were found in teenagers, officials said.

“The teenagers spend a lot of time in communal living, such as schools and tuition centers, and they’re also involved in social activities,” Son Young-rae, a senior health ministry official, said during a press conference.

“We believe that the danger of infection will inevitably climb, and that confirmed cases resulting from these youngsters would continue to rise.”

In South Korea, there has been no discernible increase in the number of very ill cases among teenagers, with only one out of every 378 severe COVID-19 patients receiving hospital treatment. In addition, South Korea has a remarkably low death rate of 0.78 percent.

  • Reuters