October 29, 2009 10:43
Everyone is on alert because of the growing worry of H1N1 flu, but perhaps no one is more anxious than the high school seniors -- and their parents -- who are about to take the university entrance exam. If they catch the flu now, they will be unable to finish preparing for the test. Even more worrying is the possibility of infected students taking the exam in crowded schools with other students. Nobody can perform well on a test if they are shivering with fever, sneezing and in worst cases, suffering from breathing difficulties.
Since last week some 6,000 to 7,000 new cases of H1N1 virus infections are being reported every day across the country. Between 200 to 300 high school students are coming down with H1N1 flu every day in Seoul. In Daegu, the number of infections rose from 1,163 on Friday to 2,446 on Tuesday. In Daejeon, infections among students has more than doubled within about a week to 366 at 51 schools. Experts say that at this rate infections will peak around Nov. 12, the date the entrance exam is to be administered nationwide.
The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology, and two other government agencies issued a joint statement to the public on Tuesday but failed to offer concrete solutions. The government is said to be recruiting doctors to be dispatched to exam locations, but even if there is a doctor at every test center, there is no remedy that can immediately alleviate the flu symptoms.
In Japan, students who cannot take the university entrance exam this year because of H1N1 flu will be given another chance to take it. The Korean government needs to quickly come up with a similar solution. One option may be to keep high school seniors from going to school until the day of the exam in order to prevent the spread of the virus among students. Another solution could be to postpone the exam and allow high school seniors to be vaccinated first. Some 400,000 medical workers across the country began receiving vaccines on Tuesday, while students will receive vaccines starting on Nov. 18.
If it is not possible to begin vaccinating students first, then another step should be taken, such as postponing the exam by a month. It takes two weeks from the date of the vaccination for antibodies to form to combat the virus. If the exam could be delayed by a month until mid-December then students could take the test without fear of infection. This would entail numerous difficulties, because universities would have to delay their recruiting schedules for freshmen following the nationwide test. Scholastic schedules for the 2010 academic year would also be affected. But this is an emergency situation. What will happen to the thousands or even tens of thousands of students who end up doing poorly on the exam and what if they blame their poor results on the government's ineffectuality in dealing with H1N1 flu? In times of emergency, extraordinary steps must be considered.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com