North Korean authorities have ordered all educational institutions to go on vacation again from July 1 until Aug. 31, Daily NK has learned. 

While the official reason cited for the decision is concern over another outbreak of COVID-19 in China, there are rumors that the real reason is a spike in confirmed and suspected infections after mass demonstrations were recently held in the country. 

“The order was relayed to all provincial, municipal and county education departments by the education ministry on June 22,” a source in the country told Daily NK on Wednesday. 

Ultimately, students in elementary, middle and high schools who returned to school on June 3 will soon be on vacation again, he added. 

The education ministry emphasized that the vacation order is a “proactive measure to prevent the spread of disease nationwide” and that all students and school staff should self-isolate in their homes for 20 days from July 1. The order also stressed that those exhibiting fevers or other symptoms of COVID-19 should report to their local clinics or disease prevention offices. 

North Korean authorities had already extended school vacation on several occasions due to COVID-19, and originally ordered schools to make up for missed classes by cutting the summer vacation period short. 

The education ministry plans to hand down specific guidelines about how schools should make up for the lost time along with class schedules in mid-August, the source told Daily NK. 

North Korean authorities have stressed that the decision is aimed at protecting students’ health, but many North Koreans reportedly believe that rising COVID-19 infections is behind the about-face. 

“An education ministry official said that the spread of the disease in Zhangbai, China, is behind the decision, but it doesn’t make sense to many people because they’ve put all students – not just students in the border region – on vacation,” the source said. 

“Some are also speculating that the recent mass demonstrations denouncing defectors led to a spike in infections,” he added.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.