South Korea's education ministry on Sunday said it will ease attendance caps for schools after health authorities decided to enforce the lowest level of social distancing measures.
Schools around the nation are required to operate with antivirus limits amid the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, attendance is capped at one-third in elementary and middle schools, and two-thirds in high schools.
But starting Oct. 19, the attendance cap for all schools will be set at two-thirds, Seoul's education ministry said.
"The number of virus-infected students and teachers has gone down sharply this month and has shown a stable trend," said Education Minister Yoo Eun-hye. "With prolonged remote learning, there have been requests to expand in-person classes to reduce the learning gap between students."
The latest move is in line with health authorities' decision to lower the country's social distancing scheme to Level 1 from Monday in the three-tier system.
Schools that have small classroom populations and are located in regions with relatively small virus caseloads can further ease the cap to accommodate more students, the ministry said. However, schools in the greater Seoul area and have big classroom population are strictly required to follow the cap.
The ministry said schools can decide their class operation schedules depending on their situation, and can expand in-class activities by staggering school hours, or running different time tables for each class.
Such eased rules will allow some schools to have full-time in-class activities daily, according to the ministry.
"It is possible for schools to have in-person classes daily with various operating schedules, but we advise them to be very careful about allowing all students to go to schools en masse, like in the past," Yoo said.
Meanwhile, the ministry said bans on gatherings at private academies and cram schools with more than 300 students will be lifted from Monday, allowing them to physically hold classes. They are obligated to follow core virus prevention measures, such as wearing masks. (Yonhap)