In South Korea and other Asian countries, children return to school between Covid-19

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But in many ways, it’s not school as usual.

When high school seniors returned to school on Wednesday, they had the temperature checked, wore masks on campus and sat at spaced desks, in line with ordinary social distancing practices.

However, within hours of reopening, dozens of schools in Incheon, a city near the capital Seoul, were forced to close again after two students tested coronavirus positive.

South Korea – which has reported over 11,100 coronavirus cases and 264 deaths – appears to be largely under control. Now, the country is trying to return to something that comes close to normal life.

But the experience of South Korea shows that reopening schools does not mean returning to normal and involves constant risks.

Across the region, other countries that have managed to control their outbreaks face similar questions when it comes to education.

Millions of children around the world don't go to school. It is not just their education that could suffer
In New Zealand, which has been praised for its rapid approach to epidemic control, students across the country have returned to school on Monday after eight weeks at home. In parts of Australia, the children have already returned to school.
In China, where the first cases of coronavirus were reported last year, students started going back to school in March, according to Xinhua state news agency. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education said so 40% of students they had returned to class.
It is a difficult topic, although the symptoms of coronavirus in children tends to be mild, some Education they suggested that children can play an important role in spreading the virus among themselves and vulnerable adults, increasing the risk of another wave of infections.

A new normal for classes

Student experience in Asia Pacific shows that even when countries reopen schools, this does not mean a return to the old ways.

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In South Korea, students don’t go back all at once.

South Korean students have not been in class since before the spring break in February.

Students normally return to school in early March, but the beginning of the spring semester was delayed until early April, when students started the new school year with online lessons.

Wednesday was the first day of return for high school students, but students of other grades will return in the coming weeks. By June 8, students of all ages are expected to return to school.

Senior students have lunch at tables equipped with plastic barriers to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus in the cafeteria of the Jeonmin High School in Daejeon, South Korea, Wednesday 20 May 2020.

On Thursday, the country’s Ministry of Education urged disease prevention inside and outside schools.

In New Zealand, schools implemented new hygiene rules – such as sanitizing hands before entering campus – and kept students spaced out in class, second on Radio New Zealand.
Australia is so serious about hygiene that the government is providing further 10 million Australian dollars ($ 6.56 million) to help schools cover the costs of soap, hand sanitizer and classroom cleaning products.

The risk of going back

Getting the kids back to school is not without difficulty.

In South Korea, dozens of schools were opened on Wednesday, and then closed again after two students tested positive for the coronavirus in Incheon, a city near Seoul. These cases are believed to be linked to an outbreak in Itaewon, a nightlife district in the capital, which has been linked to more than 200 cases.
Here's how countries are bringing children back to school

On Thursday, a high school in the South Korean city of Daegu sent students home and closed school after a student tested positive, an official from the Daegu Metropolitan Education Office said. According to the official, the student who tested positive was one of 17 who moved to the dormitories a few days ago.

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Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said Thursday that education is something that needs to be done together with disease prevention. “So we currently believe it should continue in our current response regime, with the cooperation and participation of all our staff,” said Kwon.

On May 13, the authorities of Jilin, a northeastern Chinese city in a province of the same name that borders Russia and North Korea, communicated that all the filmed classes would go online while the area collides with an increase in new cases.

Students wearing masks do a temperature check when they arrive at Keongbok High School in Seoul on May 20, 2020.

The risk of reopening after a blockade is something that experts and leaders in the region are well aware of.

China’s biggest breathing expert, Zhong Nanshan, told CNN last weekend that the country is still vulnerable to another wave of deadly coronavirus infections. “We are facing a big challenge – it is no better than the foreign countries I think at the moment,” he said.

And when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country was easing restrictions – including allowing children to go back to school – he urged caution.

“We are asking you all to be incredibly careful as we return to a new, safer normalcy,” she says She said on May 11. “None of us can assume Covid isn’t with us.”

CNN’s Yoonjung Seo contributed to this story.

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