Schools and kindergartens in the greater Seoul area are closed for the next two weeks as the government ordered that all students except for high school seniors, whose ‘high-stakes’ college entrance exam is now less than one-hundred days away, switch to online learning as coronavirus cases surge in the Seoul metropolitan area.
This is as South Korea battles one of its worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, with 320 new cases reported in the 24 hours to midnight Wednesday, the latest in more than a week and a half of triple-digit increases.
Health authorities have warned that the country is on the brink of a nationwide outbreak.
What’s all the more worrisome is that South Korea has been detecting more of a mutated strain of the new coronavirus that swept North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Let’s get an in-depth analysis. Joining us live in the studio is our go to medical expert, Dr. Alice Tan.

Dr. Tan, thanks for being with us.

The start of the school year in spring was delayed for weeks before schools reopened in stages (with reservation) beginning in May. And now, over the past two weeks, there have been at least 43 school staff and 150 students that have tested positive in just the greater Seoul area, according to the Ministry of Education.
This has led to the latest government order of closing all schools and kindergartens in the greater Seoul area.
What are your thoughts on this continuing battle of students’ education and the battle against COVID-19?

Mask wearing is one of the biggest aspects of us all adjusting to what may become the new normal as it does significantly reduce exposure to infection. And the potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development has been of concern for students wearing masks all day at school.
But as many workplaces have ordered employees to wear masks at all times throughout the work day, do you think this is a new normal that students also need to adapt to?

Closing schools is a difficult political decision, where South Korea is known for hyper-competitive school environments. Graduating from elite universities is seen as crucial to career prospects, which puts even more gravity on high school seniors.
Now, high school seniors have been an exception to all schools moving to online classes. They will continue to go to attend in-person classes so that their studies are not disrupted ahead of the national college entrance exams .
High school seniors follow the same guidelines as adults. But amidst large gatherings beings banned at Level 2 social distancing regulations, is it safe for these seniors to be exempt?
They’re just studying; not singing or talking?

As millions of children around the world head back to school, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have issued its recommendation on whether students need to wear face masks based on a breakdown of guidelines by age group.
According to these guidelines, students aged 12 and older are treated like adults when it comes to wearing masks, and children 6 to 11 have what experts are calling a “risk-based control”?
How do these factors based on social and cultural environments apply to South Korean children?

With the reported number of new cases today back up in the 3-hundreds at 320, we’re approaching almost 2 weeks of daily new cases in the hundreds. We are on the brink of reaching level 3 social distancing. Do you believe it is time for us to raise the social distancing level to the highest level three?

How does Korea’s level three compare with other countries’ highest level anti-virus measures?

KCDC Director Dr. Jeong Eunkyeong said during this afternoon’s briefing that all of the current coronavirus clusters in South Korea are seeded mostly by the GH strain of the virus.
Now, this strain, although there is no scientific evidence, IS believed to spread significantly faster than other types of COVID-19. Is this more alarming?

We’re continuing to see new cases linked to the August 15 church-related protest rally, where the exact number of attendees has still not been figured out. We’ve been seeing a rising number of silent spreaders. We have doctors on strike as the burden of supplying hospital beds returns.
How do you see us battling the virus through this impediment?

Out of Hong Kong there has been what researchers are calling the “first case” of documented COVID-19 re-infection. It seems medical researchers are reacting with less surprise. What does this possibility of re-infection mean for immunity and vaccine development? While it sounds terribly worrisome to the common person, is it good news in the medical research field?

Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women’s Hospital, many, many thanks as always for your insights this evening. We appreciate it.

Reporter : jenmoon@arirang.co.kr

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