CHINA Chinese colleges take flexible epidemic control measures as new semester starts


Chinese colleges take flexible epidemic control measures as new semester starts


09:48, September 20, 2020

After investigations and evaluations, the Chinese Ministry of Education advised colleges to implement flexible control measure and fully consider local situations, if there is a need for lockdowns, amid post-COVID-19 time.


Photo: Xinhua

As the new semester begins, college students around the country have returned to campus. Offline fall classes have begun at most Chinese universities, as health and safety continue to be a top priority for school management. Most universities, like Wuhan University, have adopted closed or semi-closed campus management measures, requiring teachers and students not to leave the campus unless necessary, and not allowing off-campus personnel to enter without an appointment.

Some changes are in place as the campuses are trying to balance resuming classes and epidemic control. At several universities, if students need to leave campus, they need to fill applications online or offline, which then must be approved by advisers. Their movements and health codes will be followed in case there is an outbreak, and officials need to do contact-tracing. 

The new policies advised colleges to take specific issues of students' daily life into consideration. The official indication is that depending on the specific situation of the university, some lockdowns may need to be continued for some time, as "one-size-fits-all" plans should not be adopted. For example, if senior students need to live off campus during internships, there should be special formalities for them to enter and exit campus. Also, students that need to visit hospitals or families should apply for permission. 

In south China's Jiangxi Province, some colleges have canceled the all-lockdown measures. Instead, local authorities instructed universities to decide if they need to continue restriction measures. 

In Beijing, colleges are still taking strict measures given the city is in the heart of national politics and economy. In previous years, Beijing suffered a flu season in the Autumn, so patients with respiratory diseases are expected to start increasing, according to hospital statistics. So how to keep 400,000 students safe is crucial to the municipal health department. 

As the Chinese national holiday week is coming, students who have travel plans will enter and exit the campus frequently. This is challenging for school health departments, as social distancing and stay-inside measures are normalized.

Some of these measures drew criticism among society since it affected students' normal life and studies. Indeed, a simple lockdown measure won't be very effective to help students adapt to school life. Online, students say they have been very cautious from potential risks of being infected thus more flexibility should be allowed for them to run personal errands and necessary off-campus activities.

Many people believe that strict epidemic prevention management implemented by universities is necessary for the sake of the students, teachers, and public health, but flexible policies in terms of lockdowns can also help the academic communities smooth out the virus situation. 

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