A staff member is on duty at the entrance of a dormitory in Beijing University of Chemical Technology in Beijing, capital of China, May 27, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]
The Beijing municipal authority has issued a breakdown of school opening schedules for the coming fall semester, which staggers the school opening peak to reduce COVID-19 control pressure on campuses.
Instead of the standard fall semester opening on Sept. 1, universities and colleges in the capital are allowed to open campuses for new student registration as early as Aug. 15, according to a notice issued by the municipal leading group office for epidemic prevention and control on Saturday.
Since June 11, Beijing has reported 335 confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to a cluster of infections in the Xinfadi wholesale market. By Aug. 6, all of the patients had recovered and been discharged from the hospital. No new cross infections have been reported in the city.
Anti-epidemic "new normal"
With cinemas now open and domestic tourism rebounding, Beijing has maintained an anti-epidemic "new normal" with targeted COVID-19 prevention and control measures to ensure normal life and social order.
The city, with 93 colleges and universities, leads Chinese metropoles in the number of higher-learning institutions. Campuses are some of the city's most densely-populated places.
Chen Baojian, vice president of Peking University, said in coping with COVID-19 prevention, the university has introduced big data and artificial intelligence to build a digital personnel management mechanism.
"For example, canteens are high-risk areas. In the new semester, we will introduce a 'dining index' to timely inform teachers and students of the real-time number of diners in each canteen to prevent crowding," Chen said.
Xu Haijun, who is in charge of COVID-19 prevention and control work at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, said that when students return, they will each receive a kit that will include a thermometer, face masks, and disinfectant supplies.
According to the notice, all teachers, students, and staff from low-risk areas must present a green health code to be able to return to school. Those from medium-risk areas shall observe the 14-day quarantine rule and take nucleic acid tests before returning to campuses.
Beijing has roughly a million students in primary and secondary schools. According to the official arrangement, senior high schools in Beijing will start the new semester on Aug. 29, while primary schools and junior high schools will start their new school year on three dates -- Aug. 29, Sept. 1, and Sept. 7.
Kindergartens in Beijing are to open on Sept. 8 and Sept. 11. Extracurricular training institutions can submit applications for resuming offline classes from Saturday.
Wang Xuechen, a mother of a four-year-old in Beijing's Fengtai District was very glad to hear the news of the reopening.
"I can hardly wait to send my daughter to the kindergarten. I hope she can return to a social life with other kids," Wang said.
"Since January, her kindergarten has collected and recorded all the children's health conditions and their travel information. The teachers are very responsible. I was told that the kindergarten is carrying out disinfection to prepare for the reopening. We feel rather assured."
Niu Zhenyun, Communist Party chief of Beijing Bayi School, said that most courses in the past semester were taken online. With the government notice, the school is making all the necessary plans.
"The notice provides specific COVID-19 prevention guidance for schools, which is crucial to prevent a resurgence of the epidemic. We also gained some experience last semester, when we arranged for three senior grades to study in class for over two months," said Li Mingxin, principal of Beijing Primary School.
The municipal authorities required extracurricular training institutions to submit applications to resume offline classes and collective activities after they meet prevention requirements.
Jin Jing, a trainer with an English language school in Beijing, said as soon as they heard the notice, the school board decided to launch a thorough disinfection of the indoor environment.
"Our students are mainly little kids who may be susceptible to viruses, so we need to be very careful," said Jin.
"We will try to limit the number of people in closed spaces. For example, we used to have seven classes in our two teaching areas. For the reopening, we will only allow one class to open in each area at the same time," Jin said.