China takes cautious path to normalcy as coronavirus controls ease
By Javier Garcia
Beijing, May 1 (efe-epa).- China’s gradual return to normalcy included the resumption of some schools with strict precautions, temperature controls in homes and commercial premises, physical distancing in restaurants, and widespread use of masks, among others.
Since Mar.12, when China announced having overcome the worst of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country, some of the drastic measures to fight the disease have been lifted, while some others remain intact and some have even been accentuated.
The major signs of the gradual recovery of normal life in Chinese cities include the return of traffic to the streets, progressive reopening of shops and restaurants, and thousands of people physically turning up to work.
However, the actual beginning of a return to normalcy was marked by the re-opening of the city of Wuhan – where the outbreak originated – on Apr.8, after remaining under strict lockdown for 76 days.
Two weeks earlier, quarantine measures had also been relaxed in other heavily affected cities in Hubei province, as people were allowed to leave not only their homes but also move across municipal boundaries, something that had become unthinkable during the height of the crisis.
However, the so-called “imported” cases from abroad, which began to rise across the country in early March while local infections subsided, have prevented the relaxation of several measures and caused new ones to be implemented.
The increase in imported cases coincided with the pandemic reaching critical stages in Europe, the United States, and other countries.
It resulted in large Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou to implement measures requiring all travelers coming from abroad to quarantine at hotels, except for few exceptions in which they could self-quarantine at home.
However, on Mar.26, the Chinese government took a step further, closing its borders to all foreigners, including those residing there, causing many outside the country unable to return home.
That extreme measure remains in effect, along with hotel quarantine for the thousands of Chinese citizens, mostly students, returning from abroad.
The government is now considering making some exceptions for health workers, key businesses, and technical staff, according to a recent announcement by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.
For the time being, the restrictions remain even though the daily count of imported cases have fallen under 10 and active cases across the country on Thursday were just over 600.
The resumption of classes is being carried out gradually and depending on a territory to territory.
In many lesser affected provinces, classes resumed a few weeks ago, while in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai students in their final year of high school were allowed to return to schools and institutes on Monday.
They are expected to be followed by junior classes, and then universities and unregulated institutions.
In Beijing, temperature checks are carried out at the entrance and exit of educational centers, a desk remains empty between two students in the classroom, and all students wear masks.
“I am glad to be able to go back to school and see my classmates, I am not afraid of the virus anymore, the situation has improved a lot,” Yan Lunyin, a 17-year-old student from Beijing, told EFE.
Before entering the school, students are screened one by one as staff in white protective suits take their temperature and offer them sanitizers.
In the eastern city of Hangzhou this week, first, second and third-grade primary school children were allowed to return to schools wearing hats whose sides were large enough to ensure a minimum one-meter distance was maintained from others.