Gov't tries to keep CSAT from being superspreader event

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Gov't tries to keep CSAT from being superspreader event

Workers sort boxes of test sheets for this year’s College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) at a printing factory in Sejong City Monday, three days ahead of the exam. [YONHAP]

Workers sort boxes of test sheets for this year’s College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) at a printing factory in Sejong City Monday, three days ahead of the exam. [YONHAP]

All middle school students in Seoul were forced to stay home Monday amid surging cases of the coronavirus, just three days before high school seniors take the exam of their lifetimes — the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT).
 
Every high school student nationwide has been required to engage in remote learning since last Thursday to reduce risks of catching or spreading the coronavirus. Elementary schools have either been operating at one-third or two-thirds of their capacities depending on each of their school district's decision.
 
Middle and high school teachers in Seoul were also told not to come to school this week, measures that were originally planned to apply only to faculty members planned to be deployed to CSAT testing sites on Thursday to supervise test-takers.
 
Korea registered 438 new Covid-19 cases Sunday, slightly below Saturday’s 450 cases. It was the second day in a row that daily infections were under 500, though health authorities refrained from celebrating the drop, saying fewer people get tested on weekends, which naturally results in fewer positive test results.
 
Seoul saw the highest number of new infections Sunday with 158 cases, followed by 69 in Gyeonggi, 52 in Busan, 34 in Incheon, 22 in North Chungcheong, 19 in South Gyeongsang, 16 in North Jeolla, 12 in Gwangju, eight in Gangwon, five in Daejeon, four each in Daegu, South Chungcheong and North Gyeongsang, three each in Ulsan and South Jeolla and one in Sejong City.
 
Among the nation’s 17 major cities and provinces, Jeju Island was the only region that didn’t have a single new case Sunday.
 
There were 24 imported cases Sunday, including seven from Russia, five from the United States, two each from Japan and Switzerland and one each from the Philippines, Myanmar, Lebanon, Ukraine, Romania, Britain, Turkey and Mexico.
 
Three people died, bringing total deaths to 526, while 83 people recovered, raising entire recoveries to 27,625. As of Sunday at midnight, Korea had counted 34,201 coronavirus patients in all.
 
 
With the virus spreading fast in Seoul, the capital’s metropolitan government said Monday there were currently 12 coronavirus patients planning to take the CSAT this week, while 57 students were under self-quarantine orders by their local health office due to possible contact with a Covid-19 patient. They will all take the CSAT either in a hospital or a remote testing site, away from other students.
 
As of last Friday, the Ministry of Education said there were 21 coronavirus patients across the nation planning to take the CSAT. They will also take the test in isolated facilities.
 
Health authorities Monday urged the general public to cancel all nonessential outings and year-end gatherings with friends and family, warning the country could have up to 1,000 cases a day one or two weeks from now if the current trend continues.
 
Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), said in a Monday press briefing that the country’s “reproduction number” of the coronavirus last week, which indicates how contagious an infectious disease is, was 1.43, which means every coronavirus patient was likely to infect 1.43 people on average.
 
Health officials normally perceive any reproduction number above 1 as dangerous.
 
“This means in a week or two, we could have as many as 700 to 1,000 new patients in a day,” said Jeong. “The social distancing level for the greater Seoul area was raised to Level 2 last week and the rest of the country will be elevated to Level 1.5 tomorrow, so if people reduce contacts with others and wear their face masks, the reproduction number could drop and lead to fewer infections.”
 
Jeong said the “biggest” threat in Korea’s coronavirus outbreak was the oncoming winter, stressing if the country fails to overcome that, all efforts and sacrifices made over the past 11 months will have been for naught.
 
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, NAMGUNG MIN   [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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