Asia Today: S. Korea says stay home ahead of national exams

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean officials are urging people to remain at home if possible and cancel gatherings large and small as around half a million students prepared for a crucial national college exam.

Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom says the 490,000 applicants so far include 35 virus carriers who will take exams Thursday at hospitals or treatment shelters. Education authorities have also prepared separate venues for some 400 applicants currently under self-quarantine.

Applicants will be required to wear masks and maintain distance from each other. They will be screened for fever and take exams separately if they have symptoms.

Park Yu-mi, an anti-virus official in Seoul, pleaded with people to cancel all gatherings of more than 10, and for companies to half at least one-third of their employees work from home to ensure a safe environment for Thursday’s examination.

A recent spike in coronavirus infections has made this year’s exams more complicated and there are concerns that the nationwide exercise could accelerate the viral spread.

The country on Wednesday reported 511 new infections, continuing a weekslong resurgence centered around the greater capital area that brought the national caseload to 35,163, including 526 deaths.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India has maintained a declining trend in coronavirus infections with 36,604 new cases reported in the past 24 hours. The cases declined by 32% in November as compared to October, according to the Health Ministry. For more than three weeks, India’s single-day cases have remained below 50,000. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said new cases were declining consistently after peaking in mid-September at nearly 100,000 per day. The capital New Delhi has also seen a dip in daily infections. It reported 4,006 new cases in the past 24 hours. India reported 501 additional deaths, raising total fatalities to 138,122. In an effort to stop the virus from spreading, the Home Ministry has allowed states to impose local restrictions.

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