South Korea implements intensive college entrance exam measures amid COVID-19

It’s a chilly, silent Thursday morning. Thousands of students warmly dressed in padded jackets, hasten their steps to schools which have been closed and disinfected for a week in lead-up to a momentous event in South Korea: the national college entrance exam.



a person standing in front of a window talking on a cell phone: A student wearing a face mask prays before the start of the annual college entrance examination amid the coronavirus pandemic at an exam hall in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 3, 2020.


© Kim Hong-ji/AP
A student wearing a face mask prays before the start of the annual college entrance examination amid the coronavirus pandemic at an exam hall in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 3, 2020.



a group of people standing next to an umbrella: Parents pray during a special service to wish for their children's success in the college entrance exams at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 3, 2020.


© Ahn Young-joon/AP
Parents pray during a special service to wish for their children’s success in the college entrance exams at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 3, 2020.

The exam, officially called the College Scholastic Ability Test, provides South Korean students a final report card for the public education they received from elementary school through high school. The results of this annual exam play a big part in determining to which university students can apply.

But this year, with COVID-19 upending traditional protocol, exam inspectors dressed in hazmat suits greet applicants with hand sanitizers and thermometers.



a group of colorful graffiti: A woman hangs on a paper note to wish for her child's success in the college entrance exams at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 3, 2020.


© Ahn Young-joon/AP
A woman hangs on a paper note to wish for her child’s success in the college entrance exams at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 3, 2020.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the exam day would be filled with exuberant cheering squads at the school gate, and parents handing out snacks or praying outside the school until the exam ends.

In fact, the entire nation celebrates the event. Authorities clear air traffic to make sure the exam’s listening sections are done in a silent environment. Businesses, including the stock market and public facilities, also open an hour late so students can make it to their test sites in less traffic.

(MORE: KCheering crowds greet South Korean students taking make-or-break college entrance exams)

This year, however, is different. Social distancing and a heavy focus on hygiene have replaced the celebrations.

“My daughter is taking the exam for the third time, and I am just relieved that she wasn’t diagnosed with COVID-19,” Kim Migyeong told ABC News. “Our whole family was nervous that one of us may be infected without symptoms and spread to our daughter, already exhausted with a long-term prep for examination.”

“I wish for the best, although this year high school seniors have had a hard time taking classes online and staying home to avoid COVID-19 infection,” Michelle Oh, who stood in front of Yangjae High School to send her son off to take the exam, told ABC News. “I saw on the news that confirmed patients can also take the exam, but there aren’t any alternatives for university interviews, so it’s best to avoid the virus.”



a group of people sitting at a table: Students wearing face masks wait for the start of the annual college entrance examination amid the coronavirus pandemic at an exam hall in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 3, 2020.


© Kim Hong-ji/AP
Students wearing face masks wait for the start of the annual college entrance examination amid the coronavirus pandemic at an exam hall in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 3, 2020.

This year, authorities have prioritized preventing cluster infections from inside test sites.

At the entrance of each site, supervisors

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Gaia space telescope measures solar system’s acceleration

Gaia space telescope measures solar system's acceleration
The image shows the apparent motion of 3000 randomly selected, distant quasars caused by the acceleration of our solar system. For each quasar an arrow indicates the direction in which it is accelerated. Note how the motions appear to converge towards a point just below right of the direction to the centre of the Milky Way, which is in the image centre. The background shows Gaia’s all-sky view of our Milky Way Galaxy and neighbouring galaxies, based on the data released in the new EDR3 Gaia catalogue. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC / CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The measurement of the acceleration of our solar system by astronomers of TU Dresden is a scientific highlight of the third Gaia catalog, which is now being released. With its publication on December 3, 2020, at 12:00 , the public will have access to high-precision astronomical data, such as positions, velocities, magnitudes and colors of about 1.8 billion astronomical objects.


What is Gaia? The aim of the ESA mission, launched on December 19, 2013, is nothing less than to produce a three-dimensional map of all astronomical objects that can be detected by the satellite’s 1000 megapixel camera—an impressive average of three million stars per hour. The observations are so accurate that Gaia could trace a motion of only a few centimeters for objects that are as far away as the Moon. An international team of scientists generates scientifically usable results from this enormous amount of observational data. This calculation, the iterative solution of a huge system of equations with 10 billion unknowns, has kept supercomputers in several European research institutions busy since 2015. Among those, TU Dresden’s high performance computers were heavily demanded by Prof. Klioner’s team to produce the numerous interim solutions which finally resulted in decisive improvements of the new Gaia products.

The excellent quality of these results enabled the scientists in Dresden to detect a highly interesting phenomenon: The acceleration of our solar system. In astronomy, it has been known for a while that such an acceleration causes a slow, apparent displacement of all astronomical objects, which should become noticeable as a global pattern in the measured motions. However, for nearby stars, this effect is completely superposed by the complex structure and dynamics of our galaxy.

Only a precise measurement of extremely distant astronomical objects, so-called quasars, could reveal this acceleration effect. These extremely luminous nuclei of distant galaxies are considered to be almost fixed on the sky, which is why they are used in astronomy as reference points.

The Dresden team identified about 1.6 million Gaia objects to be quasars, which will now be published as a Gaia own celestial reference system. These quasars clearly show the expected motion pattern of the extremely small acceleration, which, according to the results produced in Dresden, is 0.23 nanometers per second squared. It is the first time that this detection is obtained using optical observations. Professor Klioner explains:

“Measuring the acceleration of the solar system with a relative precision of 7 percent is a very

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LHSC announces added measures to curb growing University Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) says it’s implementing additional health and safety measures in a bid to clamp down on a growing multi-floor coronavirus outbreak at one of its hospitals.



a tall building in a city: University Hospital on the campus of Western University in London, Ont, on May 13, 2020.


© THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mark Spowart
University Hospital on the campus of Western University in London, Ont, on May 13, 2020.

In addition, organization officials stress that despite the outbreak, as well as cases involving at least 28 staff members, its facilities remain a safe place to seek and receive care.

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“We are actively working in collaboration with our partners at Middlesex-London Health Unit to address the COVID-19 outbreaks at University Hospital and I want to thank everyone whose efforts are helping to reduce transmission,” said LHSC CEO Dr. Woods in a statement Friday.

For more than two weeks, LHSC has been grappling with outbreaks at its University Hospital (UH) campus that have impacted a total of seven units and infected a total of 61 people, according to the health unit. Eleven of the 17 cases reported by the health unit on Friday were linked to the hospital,

“Regrettably there have been two deaths associated with these outbreaks and LHSC shares its thoughts and sympathies with the families during this difficult time,” Woods said.

Read more: ‘Majority’ of Canadians should be vaccinated against coronavirus by September: Trudeau

Local health officials first declared an outbreak at UH on Nov. 10 in the hospital’s 4IP General Medicine unit. The next day, on Nov. 11, a separate outbreak was declared in 9IP Orthopedics.

While the Nov. 11 outbreak has since resolved and was only tied to six cases, the Nov. 10 outbreak in 4IP General Medicine has continued to grow, and as of Friday, encompassed at least six units on multiple floors of the hospital.

The two most recent units to be impacted by the Nov. 10 outbreak were reported on Friday: 4TU Multi-Organ Transplant Unit and 6IP Cardiovascular Surgery.

They join 4IP General Medicine, 6IP Acute/Decant Medicine, 9IP Sub-Acute Medicine, and 10IP Palliative Care/Sub-Acute Medicine as units the outbreak has affected in the 17 days it has been active.

Coronavirus: Ontario COVID-19 data shows hospitalizations increased 63 per cent over 4 weeks

At least 55 cases and two deaths have been linked to the expansive Nov. 10 outbreak, the health unit says, making it the largest outbreak to be seen in London and Middlesex during the pandemic, according to the region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Chris Mackie.

A number of those infected have been staff at the hospital, he says, with transmission being driven by people letting their guard down, such as during work breaks.

LHSC reported Friday that at least 28 staff members in its organization were currently infected with the virus, while at least 26 inpatients with COVID-19 were in its care.

“The major breakdown was personal protective equipment between staff,” Mackie said of the ongoing outbreak.

Read more: Former NATO mission head to lead Canada’s coronavirus vaccine rollout

“I really empathize with the

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