Quarantine in Korea
So in my last update I touched on the fact that I have been asked to self quarantine in Korea by the school I teach at. The reason is my recent trip to Italy which is seeing the third worst outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The virus was, and still is, primarily circling in the northern parts of Italy. We wound up cancelling the Venice portion of our trip in order to avoid the virus.
As it stands, some of the places we visited, such as San Marino and Rimini, have seen cases in the wake of our departure. I have been under quarantine in Korea for a week now and have yet to experience any symptoms. If I were to get the virus at this point it seems far more likely that I would have caught it in Incheon or Seoul. Those places with the largest number of cases in Korea. So, fingers crossed I’m still good by next week.
But what does my quarantine in Korea mean? Well, they didn’t really give me a lot of instructions. They mainly told me to “stay home and not go out.” As they didn’t provide any support beyond this, it necessitated me leaving to buy basic groceries. Since then I’ve been able to order most things online. Although yesterday I still had to go buy the specific trash bags my neighborhood uses. When I did this I washed my hands before and after going out and wore a mask at all times so transmission seems unlikely. I don’t think my school was terribly happy with that decision on my part. But there’s only so much I can do when, you know, I need to eat and not live in a stinky apartment.
No, there are no doctor visits or tests for me, only people who show symptoms/were in contact with someone who contracted it are encouraged to contact a doctor or in my case my co-teacher to arrange for a safe testing situation. I do feel very safe with the medical situation in Korea as they are incredibly proactive about testing for the virus and have generally excellent care all around. I feel safer here than I would back in the US where we’re apparently trying to ignore it and hope it goes away. Brilliant. The weather has just started to improve and it’s playing hell on my desire to be out doing things all the time. So, for just about anyone else this would probably be perfectly enjoyable. For me, it’s not awful, but I’m certainly very glad I’m not using my vacation days for it.
Effect on Vacation/Sick Days
Speaking of vacation days, they were in jeopardy. Korean schools are not opening until March 23d due to the virus. However, contract teachers like myself and all other English teachers, are not exempt from showing up. This is stupid in the extreme. If teachers are still congregating then the likelihood of the virus spreading is still there. Children are the least likely to contract the worst symptoms. So, really, the virus is more of a threat to me and other teachers. But whatever. Anywho, because I technically still have to “show up” to desk warm at school, I’m “taking time off” for my quarantine. Also stupid as its mandatory. I don’t have a choice. Originally this meant that I was going to have to use my remaining vacation days to cover the quarantine and I would have only one left.
I‘m already well decided that I’m not going to stay here for another year. If I had used my remaining vacation days I would not have had a great deal of motivation to remain in Korea for the next 5 months of my contract. Especially since all domestic travel is also on hold given that almost all points of interest have shut down and the festivals through April and May cancelled. Luckily, I argued that I had altered my vacation specifically to avoid the virus. With this, they became sympathetic and decided it wouldn’t cost me vacation days. As far as I can tell it’s not costing me anything.
For Other People….
My situation isn’t unusual, the schools were not given strict guidelines on how to handle teachers returning from abroad. Some people lost vacation days. Some used sick days (which makes more sense to take but my school argued that if I got the virus I would then need to use them – if I got the virus a lack of sick days would be my least priority). Or some lost nothing at all as in my situation. Teachers who were not returning from abroad who still have to go in to work have generally been offered to stay home at reduced pay. I’ve opted not to take that so hopefully it doesn’t happen without my consent. I’d rather be bored at work earning money that at home bored with no money.
Anywho, I hope that wasn’t to rambling. I still have another week of quarantine. Now that my jet lag is better I’m becoming more bored by the day. When I went out for my trash bags yesterday I found myself wondering if the buildings and streets in my neighborhood had always been so big and the sky so beautiful. Most days I’ve been able to open my window to get some sort-of fresh air (as fresh as it can be in Korea) so that helps! If you have any questions about quarantine in Korea let me know!
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