South Korean teens multiply COVID-19 cases before school fully reopens

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A man who received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine leaves a COVID-19 vaccination center in Seoul, South Korea on October 29, 2021. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL, Nov. 3 (Reuters) – South Korea on Wednesday announced it would step up COVID-19 testing in schools after a sharp rise in infections among children, weeks before a plan to fully reopen schools across the country. country.

The increase comes as new social distancing rules aimed at a gradual return to normalcy took effect on Monday as part of the country’s plan to gradually move to life with COVID-19 on the back of high vaccination rates .

South Korea has fully immunized nearly 90% of its adult population, but has only started immunizing children ages 12 to 17 in recent weeks, so far administering only 0.6 % of age group with both doses.

“There is growing concern as the frequency of new cluster epidemics has increased, centered on educational institutions such as private tuition centers and schools,” the Home and Security Minister said. , Jeon Hae-cheol.

The government would expand the use of portable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests for COVID-19 in schools in Seoul and neighboring areas, and mobilize more virus prevention staff in overcrowded schools, a he declared.

South Korea plans to fully reopen schools across the country from November 22.

The country reported 2,667 new cases for Tuesday, an increase of more than 1,000 from the previous day. Almost a quarter of the new cases have been found in adolescents, officials said.

“Adolescents spend a lot of time in community life like schools and tuition centers and they are also active in social activities,” Son Young-rae, a senior health ministry official, said during a briefing. briefing.

“We believe that the risk of infection will inevitably increase and that confirmed cases will continue to increase from these adolescents.”

Other countries including Britain, Israel and Germany have also seen the spread of COVID-19 among children fueling an increase in the total number of cases and have expanded vaccination programs for children to curb infections. Read more

The United States is expected to roll out Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 as of Wednesday. Read more

South Korea has not seen a noticeable increase in critically ill cases among adolescents, with just one of 378 severe COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals. South Korea also reported a relatively low death rate of 0.78%.

Vaccination for 12-17 year olds began in October with Pfizer / BioNTech injections.

Report by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Stephen Coates and Christian Schmollinger

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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