In preparation for an influx of students coming for the fall semester, the Education Ministry has come up with a separate set of guidelines for students from 26 countries where there has been a higher risk of the spread of virus variants, including the highly contagious delta variant.
The government has designated 26 countries where COVID-19 variants are spreading fast. The countries are South Africa, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Brazil, Suriname, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Nepal, Russia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Haiti, Angola, Kuwait and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Education Ministry advises foreign students from the 26 nations to enter Korea after the first-dose vaccination rate here reaches 70 percent.
The government plans to achieve the 70 percent first-round vaccination rate by the end of September. Approximately 35.8 percent of the country’s population have received their first dose as of Wednesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
If foreign students from the 26 countries choose to come to Korea before that milestone is achieved, the ministry recommends they stay at designated self-quarantine facilities where medical staff are always on duty or at university dormitories for their 14-day self-isolation. They can also self-isolate at accommodations of their choice.
In addition, there will be at least two health monitoring sessions per day for the students. When going to a health center, they will have to take separate routes from other foreign students.
Foreign students entering South Korea for university in September must also undergo three coronavirus tests, according to the Education Ministry. The country previously implemented the antivirus measure in January ahead of the first semester.
As part of the country’s COVID-19 prevention measures, foreign students are required to submit negative results from polymerase chain reaction tests taken before departure in their home country upon arrival at the airport in Korea. Negative results from self-test kits will not be accepted.
The students will then have to install a self-quarantine application on their smartphones and start their 14-day mandatory self-isolation.
They have to be tested for the coronavirus again within the next day of their arrival. They can get tested at the public health center nearest to where they are self-isolating.
At the end of their two-week quarantine, they must take another PCR test and receive a negative result before they are free to leave.
The Education Ministry also looks to stagger the arrivals of foreign students with support measures to promote remote learning.
Even if international students decide to take online classes from their home country after getting a student visa to Korea, the government will not revoke their visa so they will still be able to come to Korea in the middle of the semester.
In order to prevent a shortage of medical personnel or test kits, the ministry will map out individual plans with each university and share the information and timeline of incoming foreign students with their respective local governments.
Furthermore, the Education Ministry intends to include each university’s efforts to protect and manage foreign students in evaluating the government certification of the International Education Quality Assurance System.
According to the ministry, there were about 34,000 foreign students who came to Korea in the first half of this year, down 82 percent from 185,000 in the first half of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the 34,000 foreign students, there were 255 confirmed cases, including 33 found at the airport where they tested positive for COVID-19 and 222 who tested positive during their self-isolation period.
Antivirus measures targeted at foreign student arrivals during previous semesters, such as providing separate transportation and conducting more tests, had helped prevent the spread of the virus in the local community, the ministry said.
“We are deeply grateful to universities and local governments for their efforts to protect and manage foreign students for a year and a half, starting with Chinese students in February last year,” Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said.
“Even though the COVID-19 situation is serious due to variants of the virus, we ask universities and local governments to work together to ensure schools’ stable management of academics in the second semester.”
By Kan Hyeong-woo (email@example.com