South Korea reports 19 new coronavirus cases as children return to school

Associated Press reporters

South Korea has reported 19 new coronavirus cases on the eve of the return to school for more than two million children.

The majority of the new cases were in the Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have been actively tracing transmissions linked to nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also reported two more deaths, bringing the country’s total to 269 fatalities from 11,225 cases.

Wednesday will see around 2.4 million pupils return to school, and health minister Park Neung-hoo urged school officials to double-check their preventive measures.

Workers disinfect as a precaution against the new coronavirus ahead of school reopening at an elementary school in Gwangju, South Korea (Park Chul-hong/AP)

A new law has come into force in South Korea requiring people to wear masks on public transport and while using taxis.

However people in South Korea, like in much of Asia, have generally worn masks in public settings and no major disruptions were reported.

Health authorities have left mask enforcement to bus drivers and subway station workers, while taxi drivers are allowed to refuse picking up passengers if they are not wearing masks.

A security official wearing protective face mask stands guard before the second plenary session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (Roman Pilipey/AP)

Meanwhile, nearby China has reported seven new cases of Covid-19, all linked to people returning from abroad.

Authorities said 81 patients are in hospital with the coronavirus, and a further 408 in isolation and being monitored for being either suspected cases or having tested positive for the virus without showing any symptoms.

Students have gradually returned to class and some international schools in Beijing are preparing to reopen on June 1.

China’s ceremonial parliament is meeting this week, with social distancing and other anti-virus measures being used.

It has also been announced a flight carrying about 200 employees of German companies to China is to arrive on Saturday in the first mass return of foreign workers since Beijing barred most visitors from overseas two months ago.

The employees obtained visas under a “fast track” program aimed at helping revive the economy, said Jens Hildebrandt, executive director of the German Chamber of Commerce in China.

The chamber organised this week’s flight and a second planned for June 3.

“There is huge demand,” Mr Hildebrandt said on Tuesday.