Beijing suspends all schools as emergency response elevated to second highest level

By Wan Lin Published: 2020/6/17 23:02:19

Senior year students at the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China in Beijing walk out of the school on April 27, their first day back school after stay-at-home learning for two months amid coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Yang Ruoyu/GT

Students in Beijing were once again studying from home on Wednesday following the suspension of on-campus classes after the city's  emergency response to a COVID-19 outbreak was elevated to the second highest level on Tuesday night. 

Observers noted that the moves mark a serious step up in the city's epidemic prevention and control work amid the new outbreak and include suspending classes for graduating students who had returned to school on April 27.

Chen Bei, Beijing municipal government's deputy secretary general, made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday, which included other measures that tighten restrictions on travel and the expansion of testing and screening. 

Beijing reported 31 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 137 since the new cluster of infections occurred at the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food market on Thursday.  

The city's first press conference since the upgraded emergency response provided details of the schoolwork arrangement for suspended students, who are again required to take online courses at home.  

According to the Beijing municipal education commission, many schools had restarted online courses as of 8 am Wednesday. It also announced that the date for entrance exam for middle schools and high schools remains scheduled for mid-July.

Li Yanjie, a teacher at a high school in Fengtai district, where Xinfadi market is located, told the Global Times on Wednesday that though the announcement came abruptly, the teachers and students were mentally prepared. 

"We had noticed the surge in the number of the COVID-19 cases these days so we were expecting classes would be suspended at schools and had already distributed study materials to students in advance for them to study at home," she said.   

Despite the worries that the suspension of in-school classes might affect students' performance in the college entrance exams, Li said it was a good way to control the epidemic. 

Wei Aimin, deputy of Beijing Municipal People's Congress, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the move marked a step up of the city's efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

He noted  the full resumption in-school was an indication that society was returning to normal but closing them again was important because schools are the last place a city wants an infectious disease to spread.

Beijing, with a population of 21 million, has some 1.3 million students in primary, middle and high schools. 

"The cases reported so far can all be traced to Xinfadi Market, and the government has done a good job in getting the epidemic under control. The closure of schools aims to cut off the possible further spread of virus among families from different occupations and industries, which if that were to happen would lead to an uncontrollable situation," said Wei.


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