Apprehension as 21 Vietnamese students in South Korea test positive for coronavirus

By Anh Ngoc, Nguyen Quy   December 18, 2020 | 05:29 am PT
Apprehension as 21 Vietnamese students in South Korea test positive for coronavirus
A student checks the time as the others wait for the start of the annual college entrance examinations amid the Covid-19 pandemic at an exam hall in Seoul, South Korea, December 3, 2020. Photo by Reuters.
Vietnamese students living in South Korea are shocked that 21 of their compatriots have tested positive for Covid-19.

Hoang Manh, a second-year student at Ajou Motor Vocational College in the city of Boryeong, about 200 kilometers south of Seoul, said he was "shocked and very worried" to hear the news.

The college reported its first case Monday, when a Vietnamese student living in its dormitory tested positive.

Health authorities then tested everyone suspected of having come into contact with the patient, including 67 foreign students, 64 South Korean students and 31 school employees.

Another 20 Vietnamese were found to be infected, the officials said on Wednesday, adding it was a rare coronavirus cluster of foreign nationals.

"Actually, when I heard this news, I was shocked and confused," Manh told VnExpress.

"In the group of infected students there was one of my classmates and some first-year students I met in the dormitory and chatted with sometimes."

He said he could not guess where the infection came from since students always wear a mask when going out and to class and the school carries out disinfection of the campus every week.

So far 400 students and staff have been tested and students who tested negative are quarantined at the dormitory and allowed to skip classes, and the school is providing them with food, he added.

Officials are contact tracing the infected Vietnamese students.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency quoted some officials as saying that the Vietnamese often cooked and ate together in private kitchens in the dormitory. Thirteen of them worked part-time at a restaurant over the weekend, and authorities disinfected this facility and tested all its staff.

Manh said: "I trust the South Korean medical system and hope all my friends recover quickly. I am also worried for myself and hope my life will return to normal soon because I am a final year student and about to graduate."

Le Minh, a third-year student at Chungwoon University in Nam Chungcheong Province, said he was shocked to know about the 21 Vietnamese students since it was the first coronavirus cluster related to the Vietnamese community.

"Since Covid-19 broke out in South Korea, the Vietnamese community has always been keenly aware of using preventive measures."

He hoped authorities would quickly track down the source of the infection to prevent further community transmission.

Boryeong, a city of over 100,000 that had reported only 34 cases before this, has raised its social distancing level to 2.5, the second highest in the nation's five-tier system, since Wednesday.

Tran Thien Quang, president of the Vietnam Students Association in South Korea, said international students who pay national insurance would get free Covid-19 treatment, but those who opted for insurance designated for international students would not.

The government has made it mandatory for all international students to buy the former from February 2021.

"A Vietnamese student who was previously infected with novel coronavirus had to spend 6 million won ($5,450) for Covid-19 treatment because he had not bought national insurance," Quang said.

In recent weeks South Korea has recorded a series of outbreaks at nursing homes, churches, schools, and other places at a rate of around 1,000 a day, prompting the government to take strong measures.

It has so far had over 47,000 infections and 645 deaths.

Around 200,000 Vietnamese study or work in that country.

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