SEOUL — The top educator in Seoul City lifted the weeklong school shutdown Friday as fears over the MERS virus have subsided.
On Monday, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education imposed a blanket ban on classes at kindergartens and elementary schools in two southern Seoul districts, effective until Friday.
Cho Hee-yeon, the superintendent of education, said the measure will be lifted as scheduled.
The order affected 69 kindergartens and 57 elementary schools in Gangnam and Seocho districts, where a MERS-infected doctor was found to have spent about four days out in public before being quarantined.
“Parents appear less anxious about the possibility of their children being infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome at school,” he said.
World Health Organization officials have also told him to “strongly consider” resuming classes, as the spread of MERS in South Korea has barely affected schools, Cho said. The WHO representatives formed a joint response team with South Korean officials earlier this week.
From now on, school principals have the authority to decide whether to cancel classes should they perceive the threat of MERS transmission at schools to be serious.
Cho, however, said the education office will meet with school principals in the two southwestern districts of Gangseo and Yangcheon in Seoul on Monday to discuss whether to extend the shutdown of schools there. These exceptions were made considering the 98th patient of MERS was treated at a hospital in the area that is within walking distance to about two dozen schools.
Cho’s announcement came a day after education officials in Gyeonggi Province, surrounding Seoul, allowed schools to resume classes next week. Gyeonggi is where the first case of MERS was detected in South Korea.
MERS is a viral respiratory disease that is fairly new to humans, with the first case being reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It has killed about 40 percent of those diagnosed in about 20 countries, mostly in and around the Middle East.
The fatality rate in South Korea has remained below 10 percent, with 11 people having died among the 126 infected. The virus has mostly claimed the lives of the elderly or people with compromised immune systems here.