Is School Closure the Best Way to Prevent MERS?

      June 10, 2015 13:33

      Some 2,208 schools are now closed due to fears of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The Seoul and Gyeonggi offices of education have ordered the closure of all schools in certain areas.

      They will review the situation on Wednesday and Thursday and decide whether to prolong the measure.

      But schools are still open and daycare programs continue for children of parents who both work. Opinions over the current arrangement differ.

      Some do not see the point. A mother in Seocho, Seoul said, "No school doesn't mean that children are grounded at home. They still go outside and play with friends in the playground. They’re still exposed to the risk of MERS infection. I think it makes more sense for children to go to school and be given thorough education on hygiene and MERS."

      The street in front of an elementary school in Seocho, Seoul is eerily empty on Tuesday as more schools are temporarily shut amid the MERS scare.

      The principal of a high school in Seocho said, "When pupils don't have to go to school, they tend to congregate in less hygienic places like internet cafe. All MERS infections happened in hospitals to people who were exposed to a carrier. Schools are no more dangerous than other places. It seems that parents are excessively concerned about this."

      Kim Woo-joo of the Korean Society of Infectious Diseases said, "All 95 confirmed cases of MERS at the moment caught the virus in hospitals, and no infection has been recorded anywhere else. Schools should of course be closed down if MERS was transmitted from one student to another, like swine flu, but this is different. The reason why so many schools are closed is because of parents are scared, but we should look at the situation dispassionately."

      But many parents insist that schools must stay closed until the situation calms down. One parent in Gangnam, Seoul said, "The number of confirmed MERS cases is increasing each day, so it doesn't make sense to send children back to school. The government says there is no chance of the virus spreading in school and that children don't usually get infected, but we can't be 100 percent sure."

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