Schools take measures to combat virus

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Schools in China have taken a range of containment measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as more students return to campuses for the fall semester.

The Ministry of Education and the National Health Commission issued guidelines last month that included the specific requirements schools need to meet to reopen their campuses and anti-pandemic measures they should follow strictly for the new semester.

Having temperatures and health codes checked, reporting their health conditions every day and frequent disinfection of public areas have become routine for students. Although the national guidelines do not require students to wear masks in school, the Beijing Municipal Education Commission still requires students in the capital to wear masks in class.

Chen Lihua, principal of Beijing Chaoyang Experimental Primary School, said primary school students, unlike older students, need more time to get used to wearing masks, so the school has tried its best to make sure students can go outside and take off their masks as often as possible.

It has moved music, painting and science classes outdoors and redesigned the class schedule so that each 40-minute indoor class is followed by at least a 20-minute break and an outdoor class, she said.

"As it gets colder in wintertime, it will be less uncomfortable to wear masks, and possibly the pandemic will be further contained in the country so that students do not need to wear masks anymore," Chen said.

Liu Ziyi, a fourth-grade student in Beijing who returned to campus on Sept 7, said the pandemic control measures her school had taken made her feel very safe.

Two of her classmates had high temperatures during class on Tuesday, and teachers rushed to send them to hospital, she said.

The other students moved to a backup classroom and were allowed to return to their regular room after it was thoroughly sterilized and ventilated, Ziyi said.

"I think teachers are paying more attention to students' health. We are told constantly to wash our hands and form good sanitary habits," she said.

Zhang Yong, deputy head of the general service office at Peking University, said although the pandemic has largely waned in China, the university has implemented strict anti-pandemic measures to safeguard the health of students and teachers.

"We are always on high alert, and we also need to be prepared for a possible resurgence of infections in the winter," he said.

The university disinfects and sanitizes all dormitories, class buildings and canteens every day, and they are equipped with infrared temperature scanners to check people entering, he said.

Students and faculty members should wear masks in indoor areas, and they are being encouraged not to leave the campus for nonessential travel, he said.

"They can still apply to leave campus after gaining approval," Zhang said. "The school has developed a special online system to handle the applications effectively and quickly."

The containment measures for educational institutions should be stricter than for other places given the large concentrations of people, and most students and teachers were supportive of the measures, he said.

Wang Feng, a second-year postgraduate student at Shandong University in Jinan, Shandong's provincial capital, said students have to take nucleic acid tests before returning to campus. Apart from having their temperatures checked, students also need to scan QR codes to register their previous whereabouts when they enter school buildings.

Students can only leave campus after gaining approval from student counselors, she said.

Although not being able to leave campus freely was inconvenient, Wang said it made her feel safer.

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