South Korea's education ministry on Tuesday released tightened guidelines for cram schools to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus on fears of group transmissions breaking out in the private-sector education institutions.
Under the advisory, local and provincial governments will be able to impose a ban on group activities at "hagwon" that are found to have breached the government's guidelines on virus prevention.
Cram schools that continue to violate the ban by opening classes can face fines up to 3 million won (US$2,389). The government may consider filing a compensation suit against such cram schools if infections occur, the ministry said.
The government said it also plans to distribute guidelines on preventing COVID-19's spread, such as keeping distances between students at 1 to 2 meters, providing hand sanitizer and mandating that students and teachers wear masks.
The measure comes amid concerns that group transmissions may occur among children and teenagers who attend cram schools that remain open despite school closures.
Only around 11 percent of cram schools and tutoring centers in Seoul were temporarily closed on Monday, with the figure falling to around 5 to 6 percent in areas with many major hagwon, according to the data from the Seoul city education office. This marks a sharp fall from mid-March when more than 40 percent of hagwons were closed.
With schools set to open on April 6, the government also released advice for schools ahead of the new school term.
Schools were told to distance seats in classrooms and vary class schedules to minimize contact between students. They were also advised to install cubicles in cafeterias or order lunch boxes to minimize contact there.
The ministry said it plans to stock up on around 7.6 filter masks and at least 20 million cotton masks before schools open.
There are currently 6 million students enrolled at schools across the country.
The ministry said that if a case occurs at a school, health authorities will consider closing down the affected class, grade or school for 14 days. (Yonhap)