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World: SKorea sees record virus jump as thousands take college exam

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic as hundreds of thousands of masked students flocked to schools on Thursday for the country’s highly competitive college entrance exam amid growing concerns about the delta-driven spread.

South Korean students wait for the start of their College Scholastic Ability Test in an exam hall at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press South Korean students wait for the start of their College Scholastic Ability Test in an exam hall at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP) South Korean students wait for the start of the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Chung Sung-Jun/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press South Korean students wait for the start of the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Chung Sung-Jun/Pool Photo via AP)

About 509,000 students were taking the one-day exam at 1,395 sites across the nation, including hospitals and shelters.

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A teacher gives a hand sanitizer to a South Korean student before the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Chung Sung-Jun/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press A teacher gives a hand sanitizer to a South Korean student before the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Chung Sung-Jun/Pool Photo via AP)

The annual exam, called “Suneung,” or the College Scholastic Ability Test, is crucial in the education-obsessed country, where careers, social standings and even marriage prospects greatly depend on which university a person attends.

A student enters a high school to take a college entrance exam as her family members wave in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) © Provided by Associated Press A student enters a high school to take a college entrance exam as her family members wave in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Students were required to have their temperatures taken before entering classrooms, and those with fevers were sent to separate testing areas. The Education Ministry said that 68 infected students and 105 others in self-quarantine took the hours-long test in isolation.

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A student hugs her mother, right, before entering a high school to take a college entrance exam in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) © Provided by Associated Press A student hugs her mother, right, before entering a high school to take a college entrance exam in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The 3,292 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Thursday marked the second straight day of over 3,000 cases. The agency said 29 patients died in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 3,187, while 506 others were in serious or critical condition.

A student waves to her mother, right, before entering a high school to take a college entrance exam in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) © Provided by Associated Press A student waves to her mother, right, before entering a high school to take a college entrance exam in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

To reduce noise, transportation authorities were planning to temporarily stop landings and departures of planes at airports during the English-listening part of the test. Government offices and private companies had their employees come in late, and the country’s stock market delayed its opening by an hour to clear roads for test-takers.

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A student gets off a police vehicle which carried her to a high school to arrive in time for a college entrance exam in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) © Provided by Associated Press A student gets off a police vehicle which carried her to a high school to arrive in time for a college entrance exam in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

“(Students) weren’t given proper classes (because of COVID-19) and I often saw my child worrying much and struggling,” said Seo Kwang-sun, a mother of a test-taker in Seoul.

A student, left, hugs her mother before entering a high school to take a college entrance exam in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) © Provided by Associated Press A student, left, hugs her mother before entering a high school to take a college entrance exam in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the College Scholastic Ability Test. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

While schools have been alternating between on-and-offline classes, the Education Ministry had planned a full return to classrooms starting next week to help reduce education gaps and align with the government's virus strategies.

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A school teacher wearing protective gear guides South Korean students before the start of the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press A school teacher wearing protective gear guides South Korean students before the start of the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)

Officials eased social distancing rules starting this month in what they described as the first step toward restoring some pre-pandemic normalcy. In allowing larger social gatherings and longer indoor dining hours at restaurants, officials cited concerns about the pandemic's impact on the economy and expressed hope that improving vaccination rates would keep hospitalizations and deaths down even if the virus continues to spread.

A school teacher wearing protective gear guides a South Korean student before the start of the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press A school teacher wearing protective gear guides a South Korean student before the start of the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)

But there has been a rise in serious cases and fatalities among older people who rejected vaccines or whose immunities waned after being injected early in the mass immunization campaign that started in late February, prompting questions about whether the decision to loosen virus restrictions was premature.

LSU’s top three head-coaching targets reportedly revealed

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South Korean students wait for the start of their College Scholastic Ability Test in an exam hall at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press South Korean students wait for the start of their College Scholastic Ability Test in an exam hall at a high school in Seoul Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)

So far, officials have issued no plans to re-impose stricter social distancing measures or postpone a full reopening of schools.

Parents pray during a special service to wish for their children's success in the College Scholastic Ability Test at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) © Provided by Associated Press Parents pray during a special service to wish for their children's success in the College Scholastic Ability Test at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) Parents pray during a special service to wish for their children's success in the College Scholastic Ability Test at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) © Provided by Associated Press Parents pray during a special service to wish for their children's success in the College Scholastic Ability Test at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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