President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday that full-fledged reopening of schools across South Korea will most likely be disrupted due to the new COVID-19 clusters centered in the Seoul metropolitan area.
"With a surge in confirmed patients in the capital area, we are moving closer towards a critical juncture which will decide the success or failure of our quarantine efforts," Moon said during a videoconference with regional education superintendents held at Changdeok Girls' Middle School in central Seoul.
The president noted, "A speedy full-fledged reopening of schools was our goal but setbacks seem unavoidable depending on regions and situations."
The comments were made as South Korea has reported a drastic surge in new COVID-19 infections since late last week. On Tuesday, the country reported 246 additional cases, which is a five-month high. Nearly 1,000 people tested positive over the past five days.
Moon added that the government will do its utmost to support quarantine efforts by individual schools and protect the health and safety of students.
"Those working in the education field must again brace for what may come," the president said, asking for local school authorities to thoroughly prepare for fall semester reopening.
In early June, South Korea completed its phased school reopening scheme despite anxieties over a new wave of COVID-19 infections in Seoul and adjacent cities. With local transmissions seemingly in control as of early last week, a large number of schools had planned on requiring daily attendance by students starting in the fall semester.
But after the government raised social distancing guidelines in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province up one notch to "Level 2" on Saturday, schools in the region are now required to operate at under one-third capacity in terms of attendees to reduce student density and prevent in-classroom transmissions. (Yonhap)