South Korea began a two-week coronavirus prevention period on Thursday ahead of the country’s annual college entrance exams, as infection figures continue to increase.

Around 500,000 high school students are set to take the country’s university entrance exams, known as Suneungs, on December 3, according to the Education Ministry, but rising Covid-19 case numbers have sparked concern whether the tests can go ahead in a safe manner.

The move comes after South Korea announced nationwide measures will be implemented for two weeks until December 3 to act as a circuit breaker in order to reduce the spread of the virus. Several provinces will increase social distancing measures, restrict numbers in venues, limit gatherings to fewer than 100 people, and recommend people work from home.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters that the steps were important, as the people “pull together in prevention measures to help our kids focus on the college entrance exam in a safe environment.”

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae has previously called on the government, businesses, and the wider public to work together to “stabilize the coronavirus situation” ahead of the exam date, although she did state that education authorities are prepared for all possibilities and have plans in place to allow the tests to proceed safely in the event of an outbreak. 

While there have been no reported cases among high school seniors, the Ministry of Education has secured over 110 test sites and 750 rooms, which can accommodate 3,800 people, in order to allow quarantining students to take the exams.

Daily Covid-19 infection rates in South Korea have been higher than 200 since November 14, recording more than 300 cases on Wednesday for the first time since August.

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