World

S. Korea closes most schools in Seoul area amid resurgence

Over past two weeks, 150 students and 43 school workers have tested positive for Covid-19

SEOUL: South Korea yesterday ordered most schools in Seoul and surrounding areas to close and move classes back online, the latest in a series of precautionary measures aimed at heading off a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 280 new coronavirus cases as of Monday night, bringing the country's total to 17,945 with 310 deaths.

That represents a drop in daily new infections from 397 reported as of midnight Saturday, the highest daily tally since early March.

With most of the new cases centred in the densely populated capital area, however, health authorities say the country is on the brink of a nation-wide outbreak and have called on people to stay home and limit travel.

"It would be too hasty to say that the curve has flattened," KCDC deputy director Kwon Jun-wook told a briefing.

"There is still a high risk that cases could continue to rise."

The past week has seen three times as many serious cases compared to past spikes, he said, raising concerns that the death toll could rise.

All students, except for high school seniors, in the cities of Seoul and Incheon and the province of Gyeonggi will take classes online until Sept 11, the Ministry of Education said yesterday.

The start of the spring semester had been postponed several times since March, but as daily cases dropped sharply since a February peak, most of South Korea's schools reopened in stages between May 20 and June 1.

MASKS

Over the past two weeks, at least 150 students and 43 school staff members have tested positive in the greater Seoul area, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae told a briefing.

Seoul on Monday ordered masks to be worn in both indoor and outdoor public places for the first time, and has ordered places like churches, nightclubs, karaoke bars and other high-risk venues closed.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo yesterday pleaded with thousands of doctors who have been staging walkouts to return to work.

"We sincerely ask the medical staff to promptly return to the medical ground, where the patients are awaiting," he said at a meeting.

The doctors are protesting several government proposals, including a plan to increase the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, K-dramas and K-variety shows will be delayed as filming and production schedules have been affected.

According to South Korean entertainment news portal Soompi, broadcaster SBS announced on Monday that its popular variety series Running Man and Master In The House have halted filming temporarily for the "health and safety of the cast and crew".

K-drama production and development powerhouse Studio Dragon also announced that it will halt all filming from Aug 24 to Aug 31.

The move may affect schedules of current series like the mystery thriller Missing: The Other Side and Flower Of Evil. - REUTERS, THE STRAITS TIMES

WORLD