SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Korea Bizwire) — Schools will decide whether to stick to in-person classes or switch to remote learning depending on their own virus situations starting in the upcoming semester, the education ministry said Monday.
Under a new COVID-19 response plan to be effective for the new semester in March, schools will be given leeway in choosing from a four-phased system, ranging from full in-person courses to fully online classes, depending on virus circumstances.
Each school will be recommended against shifting to full remote learning under the new scheme unless 3 percent of school students test positive or 15 percent go into self-quarantine due to virus infections or close contact with virus patients, the ministry said.
Shifting to fully online classes will be cautiously adopted under conditions preset by each school and through close consultations with the education ministry, as well as regional education and quarantine authorities.
Schools will also be required to detect virus cases and conduct contact tracing in their compounds on their own by taking advantage of rapid antigen test kits and mobile polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test labs, officials said.
Schools above the elementary level will be given enough rapid antigen test kits to test 20 percent of their students, while kindergartens and elementary schools will be given additional rapid antigen test kits covering 30 percent of their members.
Universities will also be advised to stick to in-person classes in the new semester and be recommended to draw up a two-stage contingency plan to shift to remote learning in the event of a crisis situation upon consent from students.
The measures came as South Korea is bracing for a further upsurge in the spread of omicron. South Korea reported 35,286 new COVID-19 infections Monday, the third consecutive day the daily tally has exceeded 35,000.
Health authorities said the number of new COVID-19 patients could possibly reach between 130,000 and 170,000 by the end of this month due to the fast spread of omicron.
As of late January, people aged 18 or below accounted for 26.9 percent of every 100,000 COVID-19 patients, up from 25.1 percent in late December.