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Beijing schools resume in-person classes, 2 months after resurgence of virus

   

Primary school students arrive at school at around 7 am on June 27, 2022 as Beijing resumes in-person classes nearly two months after a resurgence of COVID-19. Students are required to present a negative nucleic acid testing result obtained within 48 hours. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Early on Monday morning, Beijing’s primary and middle school students who have been staying at home taking online classes for nearly two months due to the resurgence of COVID-19, returned to campus in light drizzle following strict epidemic prevention and control measures. Health experts said the school resumption, around 20 days before the summer holidays, can serve as a test for regular epidemic measures, and some measures may be adjusted under the dynamic zero-COVID-19 policy to better prevent outbreaks on campus.

The resumption of in-person classes in the capital took place after the capital reported single-digit COVID-19 cases for 10 consecutive days after the latest Heaven Supermarket bar-related outbreak on June 9.

Around 7 am Monday morning, the Global Times reporter saw students in Beijing’s Shijingshan district walk into their schools in an orderly manner after presenting their health information, having their temperatures checked and hands disinfected.

Parents were required to submit health information of their children and people living with them on Sunday before their children could return to school. This included a negative nucleic acid testing result within 48 hours, a letter committing to epidemic prevention controls, health codes and travel history codes, a second-grader’s parent surnamed Zhou from Xicheng district, told the Global Times on Monday.

“I have no concerns over the local authorities’ preventive measures and I’m glad that students can return to school, as offline classes are a better learning environment for my child,” Zhou said, noting that “my son will do nucleic acid testing once every two days on campus,” and there’s no need to worry.

Another parent of a primary school student echoed the opinion and said they welcomed the authorities’ decision to resume offline schools under preventive measures. Students returning from outside Beijing need to undergo two nucleic tests, obtained within 72 hours and 24 hours after arrival in Beijing, and obey other preventive measures before returning to school.

The majority of Beijing’s students have been at home since the end of April, after Beijing reported a new round of virus resurgence on April 22 traced to two home decorators from Shunyi district, and the subsequent Heaven Supermarket bar-related outbreak.

But Beijing has basically tamed the virus. On Monday the capital reported three new confirmed cases and one silent carrier, and the four cases have all been transferred to designated hospitals.

The bar-related outbreak has caused 396 infections since June 9, involving 14 districts and Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area, and the round starting from April 22 reported 1,831 infected cases as of June 8.

Beijing’s Party chief Cai Qi said at the 13th Party Congress of Beijing on Monday that the city vowed to make unremitting efforts on regular epidemic prevention and control, and unswervingly adhere to a dynamic zero COVID-19 policy and implement the “early detection, early reporting, early quarantine and early treatment.”

Beijing will comprehensively improve the quality and efficiency of epidemiological investigations, transferring and quarantining cases, and new cluster infections will be promptly dealt with and regular nucleic acid testing will be carried out with high quality, Cai said.

Beijing will enhance the construction of the public health emergency management system and push forward disease control and prevention system reform and improve emergency preparedness, he said.

A Beijing-based immunologist who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Monday that the bar-related outbreak has ebbed away with the health authority’s fast epidemiological investigation, and next step the government should accelerate the tracing of the source of the virus.

Li Yi, a spokesperson of Beijing Municipal Education Commission, said at Saturday’s press conference that primary and middle school students will start their summer vacations from July 15, indicating that they only have to attend in-person classes for less than 20 days before the vacation.

The immunologist said the school resumption shortly before the summer vacation is a test for schools’ epidemic prevention and control, and relevant measures for the autumn semester may be adjusted according to feedback over this period.

He said school anti-COVID-19 measures are being observed and so far they are effective, but schools have to step up measures after school.

As a father of a middle school student, the immunologist said schools should recommend students to reduce gathering after schools and should not dine at restaurants.

Meanwhile, education authorities should also take precaution measures for after-school tutoring, such as requiring teachers working for such institutions not to work across districts to reduce transmission risks, the immunologist said.

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