On college campuses, Covid-19 is an uninvited guest
Covid-19 cases are surging on university campuses after May festivals resumed after a pandemic hiatus -- and became super-spreader events.
“Covid-19 home test kits have sold out completely,” said Mr. Kim, 67, who runs a convenience store near Korea University in Seongbuk District, Seoul.
“After our festival, all 150 test kits in stock sold out. More than 30 students who tried to buy one today failed because we were sold out.”
Last Friday, right after Korea University held its annual Ipsilteni festival, posts flooded the university’s online site about students coming down with Covid-19.
“I thought it was just a sore throat from screaming too much during the concerts,” wrote one student in the university's online community. “But when I went to the hospital, it turned out I was infected with Covid-19.”
“More than 80 percent of the people at the festival didn’t have masks on,” read another post. “I think hundreds of people must have been infected.”
“I have had a fever since Sunday,” a student who went to Korea University Anam Hospital for a PCR test on Friday told the JoongAng Ilbo. “I have a lot of friends who have similar symptoms.”
“Four people I know have been infected already,” said another student, a sophomore. “The situation seems to be serious. As the number of confirmed cases on campus is increasing, a lot of people are worried since final exams are just around the corner.”
The situation is the same at Hanyang University, which runs a festival famous for its lineups of celebrity performances. “Friends of mine who hadn’t caught Covid-19 before have all been infected after attending the festival,” read a post in that university’s online community.
Pharmacies around the Korea University campus in Anam-dong say demand for home test kits has increased dramatically. “We used to sell five to six kits a day,” said one pharmacy owner. “Now we are selling more than 40. Medicine for general colds is also selling well.”
Hospitals around campuses are seeing lots of students. “We couldn’t perform tests today because the rapid antigen test kits were all used,” said a doctor at a hospital near Korea University. “This has never happened before. Since last weekend, the number of people coming for tests has suddenly increased, and I think about a hundred people have visited asking for tests.”
“Since social distancing restrictions were lifted, we didn’t have many people visiting,” said a medical worker in a nearby screening clinic. “But more than ten Korea University students have visited. I thought it was very strange.”
An estimated 24,000 people gathered at Korea University's Ipsilenti festival last Friday. “The weather was warm and it was outdoors, so a lot of people were maskless,” recalled a Korea University student. “People were yelling and screaming during the concerts, and even those wearing masks took them off during performances. So I think a lot of people must have been infected.”
“We have identified that the number of confirmed cases among students has increased,” said a spokesperson for the Korea University Student Council. “So we are preparing to notify students about testing centers and nearby hospitals where they can get treated.”
Experts say this was expected. “University festivals are very close-contact environments,” said Eom Joong-sik, a professor of infectious diseases at Gachon University Hospital. “You have to be careful in places where there are large groups of people.”
“It’s not the students’ or universities’ fault,” said Kim Woo-joo, a professor of infectious diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital. “It's the responsibility of the government to regulate mask requirements outdoors.”
BY HAM MIN-JUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]