More than 500 schools closed again Friday to students after briefly reopening, as South Korea moves to stamp out a resurgence of the coronavirus in the capital, Seoul, and its surrounding metropolitan area.
Parks, art galleries, museums and theaters operated by the government in the Seoul metropolitan area — home to about half the country’s population of nearly 52 million — have also been closed to the public for the next two weeks.
Government hosted events in the metropolitan area will be canceled or postponed as well, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said Thursday. The authorities have recommended that private academies and internet cafes there close too until June 14.
Park also asked people living in the Seoul metropolitan area to refrain from going outside or holding events for the next fortnight.
The coronavirus outbreak includes a cluster in a logistics center in Bucheon. Almost 100 cases had been linked to the logistics center cluster as of Friday, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing. So far, 3,836 people out of 4,351 workers and visitors at the center had been tested, he said.
All those working at the logistics center since May 12 should self-quarantine and get tested for coronavirus, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, and any student or teacher living in a household with a worker at the center should stay home.
South Korea has been held up as a model of how to limit the spread of the coronavirus without a widespread lockdown, thanks to its rigorous testing, contact tracing and quarantine program.
Its struggle to prevent new outbreaks of the disease despite these stringent measures highlight the difficulties other nations can expect to face as they ease lockdown restrictions.
Some of the schools which have closed again as of Friday had only reopened in the past few days. Their students will switch to remote learning, Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom said.
High schools in the Seoul metropolitan area can only have two-thirds of their student population at a time until June 14, Park added, and kindergartens, elementary, middle, and special education schools can only admit one-third of their students at a time.
As of Thursday, a total of 838 schools across the country had postponed the reopening of the schools and continued with online classes, Park said.
As of early Friday, 11,402 total cases had been reported in South Korea. There have been 269 deaths, and 770 patients are currently under isolation.