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Asia Today: S. Korean students take exams amid viral spike


              A student checks the time as others wait for the start of the annual college entrance examination amid the coronavirus pandemic at an exam hall in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. South Korean officials are urging people to remain at home if possible and cancel gatherings as about half a million students prepare for a crucial national college exam. (Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP)
A student checks the time as others wait for the start of the annual college entrance examination amid the coronavirus pandemic at an exam hall in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. South Korean officials are urging people to remain at home if possible and cancel gatherings as about half a million students prepare for a crucial national college exam. (Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 41 confirmed COVID-19 patients, took the highly competitive university entrance exam Thursday despite a viral resurgence that forced authorities to toughen social distancing rules.

The Education Ministry said about 426,340 students were taking the one-day exam at about 1,380 sites across the nation. They include hospitals and other medical facilities with the 41 virus patients and hundreds of others placed under self-quarantine.

This year’s exams had been originally scheduled for November but were delayed due to the virus outbreak.

South Korea on Thursday reported 540 new cases. Last week it reimposed stringent distancing guidelines in the greater Seoul area and other places to try to suppress a spike in new infections.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Taiwanese carrier EVA Airways has fired three flight attendants for violating the island’s quarantine rules. Taiwan has since March required that all flight crew isolate themselves at home for five days after arriving from overseas. During those flights, crew members must wear full personal protective equipment. The airline said the three had left to visit acquaintances, family members and locations outside their homes. Two were sacked last month and the third on Wednesday, the airline said. According to Taiwanese regulations, they will not be fined or face criminal penalties. Taiwan has been praised for its early and aggressive approach to controlling the coronavirus, largely through mask requirements, social distancing and case tracing. The island of 23 million has reported just 686 cases, including that of a woman in her 30s who was confirmed after returning earlier this week from abroad. Taiwan has reported seven deaths from COVID-19 and says 107 people are currently hospitalized.

— India reported less than 40,000 new daily coronavirus cases for a fourth straight day as it awaits a vaccine rollout for its vast population. With 35,551 new infections, India’s confirmed tally crossed 9.5 million on Thursday. For more than three weeks, India’s single-day cases have remained below 50,000. The Health Ministry also reported 526 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 138,648. India doesn’t have any advance purchase agreement with any vaccine manufacturer. The Serum Institute of India, which has been testing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, says it will apply for emergency approval by Indian authorities in two weeks. The institute is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. India’s Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories also is conducting tests on the Russian vaccine Sputnik V.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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