|A teacher collects students' answer sheets during a mock university scholastic ability exam held at Yeouido Women's High School in Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap|
By Kim Se-jeong
Around 490,000 high school seniors took a mock College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) in 3,000 schools and 428 private cram schools across Korea, Wednesday, amid lingering concern over the spread of COVID-19.
The test centers welcomed students who were arriving early in the morning with face masks on. The test lasted several hours. This year's CSAT is scheduled for Dec. 3.
The schools and academies disinfected test rooms earlier and made sure there was at least a one-meter distance between desks in each test room. All test takers were required to wear masks for the duration of the test.
"I am used to wearing a mask now, but I still feel suffocated and uncomfortable. I hope I will be able to concentrate well with the mask on during the test," a local news outlet quoted a Busan student as saying.
Those who are receiving COVID-19 treatment or in self-quarantine were able to take the test online.
Korea reported 105 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday which takes the total virus caseload to 22,504 with 367 deaths. It was the fifth consecutive day for the Seoul metropolitan area to see the daily new infections below 100.
The government said 20 percent of the cases still had unknown infection routes, indicating the virus' ability to spread is greater than initially thought.
The upcoming Chuseok long weekend poses a big challenge to quarantine authorities.
The government said it will charge tolls on the nation's highways between Sept. 30 and Oct. 2 to discourage people from traveling. Highway tolls have been exempted during national holidays since 2017.
"The government decided to charge tolls between Sept. 30 and Oct. 2," Kim Gang-lip, a senior government official responsible for COVID-19 quarantine response efforts, said during a daily press conference. "We seek your understanding as we had to do this to minimize the danger of COVID-19 during the holiday season when millions of people normally travel."
The proceeds will be sent to cover the costs of government quarantine measures.
The government also renewed warnings against possible street rallies on Oct. 3 in Seoul. The Seoul Metropolitan Government received permit requests for 87 gatherings on Oct. 3 and turned them all down.
"If groups still come out and gather, law enforcement will disperse them, arrest people and investigate them thoroughly," Kim said. "Please think twice for the health of your fellow Koreans."
A rally on Aug. 15 triggered another wave of infections for the Seoul metropolitan area and the government placed near-lockdown restrictions to curb infections. From the rally site alone, 581 cases have been confirmed.