A student scans a QR code to register her health information at the west gate of Wuhan University in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, on June 8, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
A total of 242 million students in China have returned to school as of Friday, accounting for 90 percent of the total number, which shows China's education system has withstood a major test amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education said.
It also marked the beginning of a safe, normal and full fall semester, Xu Mei, spokesperson of the ministry, said at Tuesday's press conference. The last batch of students will resume classes after the National Day holiday next month, Xu said.
We will consolidate the hard-won achievements and continue to do a good job in education amid regular COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control measures, Xu said.
Chinese students have been returning to school in different batches eight months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit China, with control measures such as partial campus seal-offs, conducting large lectures online, and reducing group activities. Beijing universities requested that freshmen report their health situation 14 days ahead of classes, submit negative nucleic acid test results, and obtain a green code to enter the campus.
Chinese health experts believe that the safe and normal school resumption is proof of the success of China's epidemic prevention and control measures in the past months.
"Wuhan, the worst-hit region, lifted a lockdown only after no community infections. From the Wuhan outbreak in January to Beijing's Xinfadi outbreak in June, the Chinese government mobilized society to practice social distancing, quarantine and nucleic testing at the early stage of the epidemic, which is essential to curbing the spread of the virus," Jin Dongyan, a biomedical professor at the University of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
It's necessary to maintain precise control measures in schools under a regular epidemic control management to prevent cluster infections, analysts said.
An official with the Beijing Municipal Education Commission said a campus epidemic transmission model showed that one infected person in campus, if not detected immediately, could result in cluster infections in one to two weeks.
However, experts noted that campus control measures should be flexible and adjusted based on local epidemic situations and practical situations of schools, to ensure food and delivery services for students under partially enclosed management.
Jin said that balancing virus prevention and people's daily lives and work is a challenge that countries around the world are trying to solve.
Chinese universities also tried to better respond to it by turning to flexible precaution management, after closing off some colleges sparked controversy.
Xi'an International Studies University lifted and simplified its coronavirus prevention measures on Monday, and extended service hours for meals and showers, although still asking students not to leave the city if not necessary, after videos emerged featuring students yelling from their dormitory rooms at midnight, asking the school to lift the strict closed-off campus rules.
Compared to Chinese schools, which welcomed the return of students, universities in the US have gone back to online courses and canceled their tests, after an increasing number of confirmed cases involving students were reported since schools reopened in mid-August.
Peng Zhiyong, director of the intensive care unit of the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, told the Global Times that it's not surprising for the case spikes at US universities, as he learned by talking with his US counterparts that young people in the US usually do not practice social distancing, visiting clubs and bars a lot.
Jin believes there was almost no way for the US to curb community infections given the high number of patients, and frequent outbreaks of COVID-19 in the US are inevitable, he said.
What the US has been doing is to wait for vaccines or possible herd immunity, Jin said.