Putting off the start of the new spring semester for over a month reduced the risk of adding at least 200 diagnosed cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in Korea, local researchers said in a paper.
The Ministry of Education postponed the re-opening of elementary, middle, and high schools from March 2 to March 9, then to March 23, and again to April 6, to minimize the impact from the pandemic.
Konkuk University Mathematics Professor Jung Eun-ok and Samsung Medical Center Infectious Diseases Department Professor Peck Kyong-ran said they used a mathematical model to estimate an expected number of confirmed cases, assuming the transmission rate among children would increase 10-fold if the schools had opened.
The research team said that about 60 new cases were expected to occur from March 2 to March 9, and additional 100 children cases, from March 9 to March 23. If schools had opened on March 23, 28.4 children would have been infected for seven days, and 33.6 children for 14 days.
Altogether, the school closure between March 2 and April 6 could cut down at least 200 confirmed cases for children, the researchers concluded.
The research team noted that children could find it hard to keep their personal hygiene level when they go to school and that transmissions among children could lead to the spread to teachers, families, and the elderly.
The researchers emphasized that keeping social distancing was essential to prevent the recurrence of the epidemic.
Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said schools would re-open with online classes on April 9 and delay the annual college entrance exams.
High school and middle school seniors will be the first to attend online classrooms, according to the education ministry. Younger students will follow suit, gradually starting on April 16.
The ministry also announced on Sunday that first and second graders in elementary schools would receive education programs on the state-run TV channel EBS and handout materials starting from April 20, instead of real-time online classes.
The paper was published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science, under the title of “School Opening Delay Effect on Transmission Dynamics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Korea: Based on Mathematical Modeling and Simulation Study,” on Wednesday.
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