South Korea is still dealing with small but multiple coronavirus clusters that brought about a resurgence of new cases across Seoul but a new problem has caught authorities off guard.
Elementary School Students Test Positive
South Korean health officials confirmed on Tuesday that two elementary school students tested positive of COVID-19, marking the first time a school-related transmission was logged in the country.
Health officials explained that the two infections came after they came into close contact with a classmate who tested positive on Monday. The students were fifth graders residing in Daejeon.
The first positive student attended school between June 22 and 24 and since then, health authorities have carried out tests on all 25 students who were in the same classroom as the infected patient.
Tracking the School Transmission
According to local health authorities at Daejeon, the first classmate took classes at the same cram school with the first patient, while the second came in contact with the first patient at a gym.
The third student and the first patient were found to have been close to each other and have been frequently visiting each other's houses.
On the other hand, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) noted that the infections are still being called "suspected cases" of school transmissions at this point.
KCDC director Jeong Eun-Kyeong explained that the suspected cases have yet to be confirmed as a case of virus spreading at a school setting since authorities have to determine how close in contact the students were both outside and inside the school.
Contact tracing has been implemented for contacts of the first patient and as of Wednesday, all test results of 159 people tested have come out negative.
Due to the new cases, there has been concern over whether anti-coronavirus measures in school settings are enough or implemented adequately to ensure that students' health are protected.
Some educators have previously expressed concern that both teachers and students may be getting exposed to some COVID-19 infection risks since it is not always easy to ensure that everyone in the school is abiding by social distancing rules.
Privacy Groups Call Out Government
Meanwhile, as the government continues to grapple with cluster infections and potential school transmissions, privacy groups have expressed concerns for the privacy of patients who were infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The 2015 epidemic saw South Korea having the largest outbreak outside the Middle East. The government has admitted to keeping the health records and data of MERS-infected patients.
However, privacy groups pointed out that South Korea's Personal Information Protection Act states such information and records should be erased since they have already been used.
The Korean Progressive Network, a civic group based in Seoul, revealed that the personal information being retained by the government include names, age, gender, occupation, and even contact details.
Up to this point, it is unclear whether the government is also keeping credit card records or surveillance footage, as well as location data. It remains to be seen how the privacy protection issue will play into the current COVID-19 crisis.
As of Wednesday, South Korea logged a total of 12,850 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 282 deaths.