The college reported its first confirmed case on December 14, when a Vietnamese student living in its dormitory tested positive for the coronavirus.
Following the first case’s detection, municipal health authorities conducted coronavirus tests on everyone suspected of having come into contact with the first patient, including 67 foreign students (50 from Vietnam, 16 from Uzbekistan and one from Thailand), other 64 South Korean students and 31 school personnel.
Through the tests, 21 Vietnamese students have been confirmed to be infected, the officials said, noting authorities are to conduct coronavirus tests to all 400 other students in the same hostel as well as school officials on Wednesday.
The municipal authorities are investigating the patients’ travel history and infection routes, suspecting that the group infection may have occurred due to close contact in enclosed dormitory rooms.
According to some municipal officials, the infected Vietnamese students cooked and ate food together in a separate kitchen area within the dorm.
A woman receives a Covid-19 test at a makeshift testing site in central South Korea. Photo: Korea Times
Notably, 13 of the infected Vietnamese students reportedly worked part-time at a restaurant on Daecheon Beach in the same city last weekend, prompting authorities to disinfect the establishment and conduct coronavirus tests on its employees.
Boryeong, a city of slightly over 100,000 people that had reported only 34 confirmed cases prior to the college dorm cluster, has raised its social distancing level to 2.5, the second highest in South Korea’s five-tier system.
South Korea has been cautious in adopting level 3 as the move will cause economic damage to shop owners and self-employed people.
“The present situation is very grave. All citizens are required to cancel all year-end meetings and events, and thoroughly comply with quarantine and social distancing rules,” Yonhap quoted Boryeong Mayor Kim Dong-il as saying.
In recent weeks, a string of clusters of coronavirus infections have erupted at elderly nursing homes, churches, educational institutions, and other multi-use facilities throughout South Korea, as the East Asian country now reports over 1,000 new cases every day.
Vietnamese citizens were advised to keep a close watch and follow instructions of local agencies to prevent the illness.
In case of emergency, it is recommended to contact the hotline of the Vietnamese Embassy in the Republic of Korea (RoK) +82 10-3622-6618.