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S Korea scrambles to contain Covid outbreaks in Christian schools

SEOUL South Korean authorities were scrambling yesterday to contain coronavirus outbreaks centred on Christian schools as the country reported a jump in cases, dampening hopes of a fast exit from a third wave of the pandemic.

South Korea reported 559 new cases as of midnight on Tuesday, up from 354 a day before, bringing the tally to 76,429 with 1,378 deaths.

More than 100 cases were confirmed overnight among people linked to a church and its mission school in Gwangju, about 270km south of Seoul.

So far, 297 Covid-19 cases have been traced to six churches and mission schools run by a Christian organisation, health official Yoon Tae-ho said.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the Daejeon mission school outbreak appeared to have been spreading for some time before it was detected.

The Christian organisation responsible for the facilities, International Mission, was ordered to test everyone linked to 32 of its 40 schools and churches around the country.

The group apologised for not taking early measures to prevent the outbreak. It said that while some infected students may have been asymptomatic, it had also failed to require students with cold-like symptoms to get tested.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called on people affiliated with the affected facilities to get tested.

Meanwhile, China has started using anal swabs to test those it considers at high risk of contracting Covid-19, state TV reported.

Doctors say this can be more effective in detecting the virus. Officials took anal swabs from residents of neighbourhoods with Covid-19 cases in Beijing last week, broadcaster CCTV said, while those in designated quarantine facilities have also undergone the test.

Beijing has also tightened curbs ahead of Chinese New Year. It will require people arriving from low-risk areas in China between today and March 15 to show negative Covid-19 test results.

People wanting to enter the capital from those areas will also first need to undergo a 14-day health observation period at home, Beijing authorities said yesterday.

Covid-19 tests will also be performed on the seventh and 14th day of their arrival. - REUTERS, AFP

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