China keeps its guards up as students prepare for new school year

By Jesús Centeno

Beijing, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- Disinfected classrooms, masks, health status apps and nucleic acid tests — China’s authorities are pulling out all the stops to ensure they do not let their guard down as children get ready to return to school.

The National Health Commission recently published a list of protocols to be adopted in kindergarten, schools and other education centers, which are due to welcome students back from September, a date that could vary depending on regional Covid-19 infection rates.

Students, teachers and other employees must first pass temperature controls before entering education centers and classes are due to return in person for China’s 200 million students.

All areas of school premises must be fully disinfected and visitors will be prohibited from entering elementary and secondary school buildings.

Parents will no longer be able to enter kindergartens to collect their children and universities have been told to strengthen their screening procedures for those coming in and out of the building.

The guide drawn up by the commission also requires learning centers to administer nucleic acid tests to teachers and other employees, while students will have to ensure they are always carrying disinfectant and masks.

In principal, mask use will only be obligatory in zones considered medium to high risk.

Four zones in China are currently on alert, one in Canton and three in Xinjiang, which has two high-risk areas. Here, both the students and teachers will have to undergo testing.

In any case, those attending centers of learning, for work or study, will have to prove they are in a good state of health using the scannable QR system on their cell phone as part of the government-backed track and trace system.

In the capital Beijing, elementary and secondary students are to return to school from 29 August and to kindergartens from 8 September, while some universities have already begun the matriculation process.

Spokesman for the regional education ministry, Li Yi, said that the learning centers would be divided up into administrative districts.

“The important thing is that in the case of an incident, we can cordon off those affected and minimize the impact,” he said.

Students and teachers in Beijing will not be required to wear masks, but other employees, such as security guards, will be, the spokesman added.

A representative from Tsinghua University told Efe that admission requirements for students would be altered this year due to Covid-19.

Those in Beijing will be able to head to campus to sign up for their classes as normal, but foreign students will have to distance learn via the internet.

Some Chinese students abroad are finding it tricky to come back to the country, as are many internationals.

This is the case for Korean Zuhui Ghang, who has applied for a course at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

“I’ve still not received a response as to whether the course will go ahead and I’m waiting on two other programs, one here and one in another center,” she told Efe.

According to the education ministry, students will be asked to take on the personal responsibility of sticking to health protocol, and will be expected to fully cooperate with officials should they develop a suspected case of coronavirus.

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