The Department of Education and Training in the south-central Vietnamese province of Phu Yen suspended test taking at two high school graduation exam sites after detecting 166 suspected coronavirus infections among students and staff on Wednesday -- the first day of the 2021 national high school graduation exam.
Traditionally held in July, the national high school graduation exam is an annual assessment taken by twelfth-grade students in Vietnam at the end of their studies.
The results of the exam are used to ensure students meet graduation requirements and to help colleges and universities make acceptance decisions.
In light of the ongoing pandemic in Vietnam, many provinces and cities tested all candidates for COVID-19 before this year’s exam, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, requiring the in-person attendance of nearly one million students.
In its report to the Ministry of Education and Training on the first exam day, the Department of Education and Training in Phu Yen said 151 candidates and 15 staff members at seven exam venues had apparently contracted the coronavirus.
In response, the department suspended test-taking activities at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai High School in Tay Hoa District and Tran Hung Dao Middle School in Tuy Hoa City, where there were 39 and 100 students, respectively, are suspected to be infected with the pathogen.
All exam questions and exam records at those two test venues were returned to ensure confidentiality in accordance with national regulations.
The suspected test-takers were asked to stay home and adhere to instructions from local medical authorities.
They will take another test in the second phase of the exam, with the dates to be decided by the education ministry.
There were two special cases in which two candidates at two exam sites -- Hung Vuong Middle School and Duy Tan High School in Tuy Hoa City -- had already received their exam questions before staff were informed that they were suspected to have COVID-19.
The provincial education department allowed the two students to take the test as normal in isolation rooms, which were completely disinfected after the tests were handed in.
Those two students will take the remaining subjects of the exam during the second phase.
The 15 staff members in question were also asked to stay home under the monitoring of local medical authorities.
A spike in local coronavirus infections that emerged on June 23 in Phu Yen has yet to be brought under control.
The province has recorded 315 COVID-19 cases during this latest wave, according to the Ministry of Health’s update on Thursday morning.
In the same update, the health ministry confirmed 314 new cases of COVID-19 in Ho Chi Minh City and the neighboring province of Binh Duong, increasing the country’s tally to 23,385.
Recoveries have reached 8,557 while the death toll has mounted to 102, the majority of whom were older patients with critical underlying diseases.