South Korean students return to class | 32 new cases

Senior students wait for a class to begin with plastic shields placed on their desks at Jeonmin High School in Daejeon, South Korea, on May 20, 2020. (Kim Jun-beom/Yonhap via AP)

On May 20, South Korean students began to return to classes as the country counted 32 new cases of coronavirus.

It was the first time the daily increase has been above 30 in nine days. Early May, South Korea relaxed much of its social distancing rules but then saw a spike in new infections linked to Seoul’s nightclubs.

Under new rules, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors were allowed to return to classe with temperature controls before entering school and masks at all times. Some schools had plastic partitions installed at each desk.

The Ministry of Education said in the coming weeks, lower-level students will go back into phases.

The new school year should have started in early March but was delayed several times. About 5.4 million students took classes online.

Further developments in the Asia-Pacific region:



China continues to fight a cluster of viruses in its northeastern province of Jilin, with four out of five new cases reported Wednesday in the region north of Beijing. Authorities believe that the outbreak may have started among a group of family members and friends who gathered for dining and drinking without social distancing.

Only 87 people are still under treatment, while 375 others are in isolation and under surveillance. China has recorded a total of 4,634 virus deaths among 82,965 cases.


Singapore, which has one of Asia ‘s highest infection rates, plans to exit a three-phase partial lockdown in June 1. Officials say businesses that do not pose a high transmission risk can reopen June 2 but some retail shops, personal services and restaurant dining will remain closed.

Schools will reopen in phases and families will be able to visit each other, but they are limited to one visit per day and not to more than two guests in a home.

The city-state reported 28,794 cases with 22 fatalities. Most are connected to foreign workers who stay locked up in their crowded dormitories. The government has said that it expects infections to increase next month with the increased activity. If the transmission remains low and stable, and infections among foreign workers under control, more activities, including gyms, tuition centers, and retail outlets, will gradually resume. Eventually, all restrictions are eased but with strict guidelines.


Indian Railways announced plans to increase the number of special trains and add 200 new trains from June 1, in a big relief for tens of thousands of migrant workers eager to return to their home villages. The railway said it has transported more than 2.1 million workers in more than 1,600 trains in the last 19 days. Passengers must wear masks and undergo health screening before boarding.

A huge number of workers returning home have raised fears that many may be carrying infections with them. In India, the number of cases of coronavirus has surged past 100,000 with nearly 4,000 deaths. India’s 2-month lockdown was extended until late May.

Virus Outbreak India
On the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, migrant workers and their family members board a bus that transports them to state borders from where they will be taken to their native lands. The pandemic exposed India’s deep economic divide, as millions of migrant workers left Indian cities with luggage bags perched on their heads and children in their arms, walking down highways in desperate attempts to reach the countryside. (AP Photo / Kumar Mahesh)


The president of Taiwan said the coronavirus pandemic changed the global political and economic order, intensified and extended the reorganization of global supply chains, restructured the global economy, and changed our way of living and shopping. In an address on her inauguration to a second term on Wednesday, Tsai said such changes present both challenges and opportunities, especially for Taiwan, which has received praise for its handling of the outbreak even while being excluded at China’s insistence from the World Health Organisation.

Beijing claims the democratic island which is self-governing as its own territory. With virus threats still looming, “only those who can end the pandemic within their borders, lay out a strategy for the survival and development of their country, and take advantage of opportunities in tomorrow’s complex world, will be able to set themselves apart on the international scene,” Tsai said. As an aging society, she said, Taiwan needs to strengthen disease prevention and treatment capabilities, and connect industries to make more vaccine breakthroughs and new drug development.


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