Education Minister Yoo Eun-hye speaks during a press briefing held at the governmental complex in Sejong, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The Ministry of Education on Wednesday watered down its guidelines for school students’ COVID-19 testing, saying that students are recommended to take two rapid antigen tests a week.
While saying that schools will be provided with testing kits, the ministry said that the tests were not mandatory and that schools will be given autonomy in implementing measures against spread of the virus.
The measure comes days after the ministry came under fire over reports that COVID tests could be made mandatory for students.
The ministry is to provide 60.5 million rapid antigen testing kits for 6.92 million students and staff at kindergartens and elementary, middle and high schools.
The testing kits will be provided for free from the fourth week of February to the last week of March. The ministry will provide two kits for students each week and for faculty members, it will give out one kit per week.
Currently, students are using a self-diagnosis application on mobile phones to record and share their health condition with schools. The ministry will update the app to include a feature that allows students to share their testing results.
If they test positive, students will be required to undergo the polymerase chain reaction test at nearby public health centers.
“Students will not be banned from coming to school because they did not update their apps or did not test themselves,” Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hye said during a press briefing held at the governmental complex in Sejong, Wednesday.
“This is not compulsory or obligatory. Students will be allowed to attend schools without testing,” Yoo said. “Schools are to provide the test kits for free for autonomous infectious disease prevention and control. We will recommend students test themselves.”
Each school will have extra test kits for some 10 percent of the total student population for those who need to retest themselves and those who have to be tested after coming in close contact with a confirmed case in school.
Students will receive the kits every Friday. The ministry advises students to test themselves on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.
”We will check the kit supply and the infectious disease control situation in the second week of March and announce the plans for April,“ Ryu hye-suk, head of Student Support Bureau at the ministry, said.
Meanwhile, Yoo stressed that the “normalcy attendance” policy for the new semester will continue. Schools will go hybrid with online and offline classes if more than 3 percent of students are confirmed as having COVID-19 in a day or if the number of those who have been restricted from attending classes surpasses 15 percent.
“Over the past two years, children have been limited from developing social relationships. The deficiency is serious,” Yoo said. “It may be difficult and inconvenient, but we hope to prepare for the new semester, cooperating with each other.”