SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Korea Bizwire) — The Seoul education office on Tuesday advised schools in the capital to extend their winter vacation as part of efforts to curb the fatal new coronavirus from further spreading.
A letter containing the non-binding advisory was sent to kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools across the capital, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.
It will be up to principals at each school to decide whether to carry out the rescheduling.
The move comes amid growing fears over the coronavirus. More than 2,100 people signed a petition asking the education office to postpone the reopening of schools, mostly scheduled for this week and next week.
With some schools resuming classes Tuesday after a monthlong winter vacation, schools and parents are on alert.
Many children were seen wearing masks as they went to school or kindergarten, while some parents of preschool children said they plan to stay home with their children for the time being.
“I’m worried that some kids went to Ilsan or Pyeongtaek (during the Lunar New Year’s holiday), where coronavirus patients were found to have visited,” said a 36-year-old mother standing with her 5-year-old daughter at a kindergarten in Mapo in western Seoul.
“There’s a lot of moms saying they won’t send their kids to kindergarten for some time.”
A 26-year-old mother who lives in Guri, south of Seoul, said she plans to stay at home with her preschool child.
“Contagious diseases spread very quickly at nurseries. I’m planning to stay at home with my child for a week,” she said.
The sentiment was also strong online, where people shared information on the coronavirus or asked whether they should send their children to school or kindergarten.
“Would it be too excessive to ask my child’s kindergarten teacher whether there are kids who visited China during the holidays?” one person asked.
“I was pregnant during the 2015 MERS crisis and had to wear a mask every day. Now that child has to wear a mask when going to nursery,” wrote one mother.
Parents who both work seemed more concerned, left without the option of taking care of their children at home.
“I’m worried that a patient was roaming around Gangnam, which is not that far away. I don’t even have anyone to take care of my child since my husband and I both work,” said one mother who lives near the southern Seoul neighborhood.
To counter the spread of the contagious virus, the Ministry of Education held a meeting earlier in the day, where it decided to trace the movements of students, parents and teachers who recently visited the Chinese province of Hubei.
For those who have visited the area where the new coronavirus first emerged, the ministry plans to request them to self-isolate themselves for a minimum of 14 days upon their arrival here.
The ministry also distributed manuals to private-sector education institutions, urging them to closely monitor students and teachers.
As of Tuesday, four people in South Korea, including one Chinese and three Korean nationals, have tested positive for the new coronavirus that has killed more than 100 in China.
On Monday, President Moon Jae-in urged his staff to take “all possible measures” to prevent the disease from spreading, including a thorough check of all entrants from the Chinese city of Wuhan.