Students line up in front of a testing station installed at a middle school in southwestern Seoul on March 16. (Joint Press Corps)
School quarantines will be relaxed starting from Monday next week, with students advised to test themselves once a week using self-testing kits, the Ministry of Education announced Tuesday.
The Education Ministry has decided to reduce the frequency of recommended self-testing to once a week from twice a week for kindergarteners, elementary and middle school students.
Since the semester began in March, students were advised to test themselves twice a week using rapid antigen testing kits. However, with the government’s assessment of the omicron wave as on the retreat here, the ministry has decided to cut down on COVID-19 testing.
“We have decided to reduce the frequency of testing for students as the number of confirmed students has been on a decline since the fourth week of March,” Ryu Hye-suk, head of the ministry’s Student Support Bureau, said during a press briefing Tuesday.
With more than 30 percent of all students having contracted COVID-19 by now since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the average number of confirmed students in a week decreased from over 60,000 in the third week of March to some 53,000 for the fourth week and 41,000 in the fifth week.
Furthermore, though students have been recommended to test themselves three times in seven days if there is a confirmed case in the same class, only students with COVID-19 symptoms or underlying conditions will be advised to test themselves twice in five days from the next week.
Meanwhile, the ministry once again stressed that COVID-19 confirmed students will not be allowed to sit for midterm exams coming up this month.
Though the presidential transition committee called for the ministry to reconsider the matter following complaints from students and parents, the ministry said it will not change the rules.
“The quarantine rule for confirmed patients has never been changed in the past two years,” Lee Ji-hyun from the ministry’s Teaching-Learning & Assessment Division said. “We cannot allow confirmed students to come to schools to take the exams when the quarantine rule has not been changed.”
The ministry said its protocols for end-of-term exams will also work in the same way, depending on the disease control authorities’ quarantine rules for confirmed patients at the time.
The ministry is also working on drawing out new infectious disease control and prevention protocols for schools, which will be enacted from May.
“We are discussing new guidelines with the disease control authorities. The announcement will come soon,” Ryu said, mentioning that the disease control authorities are set to announce new social distancing measures Friday.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)