XI'AN -- Wang Xin (pseudonym) was diagnosed as a confirmed COVID-19 patient days before his big moment.
Wang, who lives in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, was among the 4.57 million candidates who are sitting China's postgraduate entrance exam, scheduled from Dec 25 to 27 this year.
In Xi'an, a megacity coping with a recent resurgence of COVID-19, there are about 135,000 participants.
The provincial capital city with a population of 13 million had registered a total of 635 locally transmitted cases by 12 pm Sunday since the latest outbreak triggered by imported infections on Dec 9.
On Dec 23, just two days ahead of the exam, Xi'an imposed closed-off management for communities and villages in an effort to contain the spread.
So as to minimize the impact on every examinee, the city government decided to hold isolated exams for test-takers under quarantine.
A slew of innovative measures have hence been put in place to ensure their smooth participation.
Wang, who would normally have taken the exam at Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology, did it instead in an isolated room in Xi'an Chest Hospital, where he was being treated.
At 8 am sharp on Saturday, the school staff brought exam papers to the hospital and assisted medics in supervising the exam with the help of video monitoring and interphone. After each test, the completed papers were disinfected and sealed and then brought back to the university.
Quarantined rooms have also been established for examinees who had close contact or live in communities with confirmed cases.
"There has never been a year when the organization of the postgraduate entrance exam has been so challenging," read a letter to candidates released by the Shaanxi education examination authority ahead of the exam.
At Xi'an International Studies University, a total of 5,496 participants were expected to take the exam, including six labeled as close contacts or secondary close contacts and 134 from communities that reported COVID-19 infections.
The university has designated a building as an isolated exam site, with nine rooms set up and 42 invigilators. The invigilators are required to dress in hazmat suits while the exam-takers only need to wear a mask. The students, who are unable to leave the room during the lunch break, are provided with free meals.
But on Saturday afternoon, the number of examinees at the university's isolated exam rooms suddenly jumped to 189 as a village nearby reported new cases the night before.
"I'm really grateful for the detailed plan made by the school. I'm chauffeured to the new test site and guided by volunteers all the way," said Zhang Zhongyuan, a test taker from Xi'an Jiaotong University.
Xu Bin, 43, is a teacher at Xi'an International Studies University. He is among the eight invigilators at the hotel where two examinees that had close contact with COVID-19 patients are sitting the exam.
After undergoing rigorous training in epidemic prevention and invigilation, Xu checked into the isolation hotel a day in advance. Xu was provided with 15 kinds of epidemic prevention materials -- including 48 protective suits, 64 N95 face masks, 80 pairs of gloves, in addition to eight sets of pencils, erasers and pens, one set for each student in each test.
After the exam, Xu will stay at the hotel for isolation for a fortnight.
More considerate measures were also adopted. Chang'an University offered masks and hand sanitizers for all examinees. The municipal transport department has organized 5,000 taxis and cars through ride-hailing platforms to provide rides for examinees.
The measures were warmly received by members of the public. "I will never forget this stressful but heartwarming exam!" "It shows how our country values talent," said examinees on Chinese social media platforms.