More than 20 Chinese universities postpone new semester to stop COVID-19
Published: Aug 21, 2022 09:39 PM
Freshmen of the class of 2021 walk onto the campus of Hainan University. Source: Hainan University

Freshmen of the class of 2021 walk onto the campus of Hainan University. Source: Hainan University

More than 20 colleges and universities across China have moved to postpone the starting dates of the new semester, in a move that public health experts say is necessary to stop the spread of the COVID-19, as many places across the country are combating sporadic outbreaks.

Due to the serious and complex epidemic situation across the nation, some universities and colleges in municipalities and provinces, including Beijing, Northwest China's Shaanxi, East China's Fujian, South China's Hainan, Northeast China's Liaoning and Jilin provinces, have decided to put off the start of the new semester. 

The delays came after a recent notification issued by China's Ministry of Education, urging universities nationwide to carry out scientific and precise normalized epidemic prevention and control by carefully arranging the return of faculties and students. 

Following the notification, at least four universities in Shaanxi have decided to postpone their registration dates for freshmen, as the province is at a critical stage in its battle against Omicron BA.2.76 and BA.5.1.3 that have caused a sudden flare-up in Shaanxi recently.

A total of 156 confirmed local cases and 129 silent carriers have been identified in the province by Saturday, the local health authorities announced on Sunday. 

Experts have pointed out that multiple factors, including the summer travel peak and the approaching new school season with huge personnel flows, have posed greater risks and put greater pressure on provincial epidemic prevention and control. 

In addition to the universities in Shaanxi, at least four colleges in Hainan, including Hainan Normal University, Hainan University, Hainan Medical University, and Hainan Vocational University of Science and Technology, have all postponed the registration or arrival dates for students in accordance with the local epidemic prevention and control requirement. 

Famous tourist destinations in the province, including Sanya and Haikou, have been placed under "static management" after a sudden flare-up broke out in Sanya and spread to other cities across the province. 

The current epidemic situation in Hainan is improving, with the number of infections across the province declining for three days in a row and infections detected at communities decreasing significantly, local authorities announced at a press briefing on Sunday afternoon. 

In some other provinces where only sporadic flare-ups have been reported, such as Fujian, Guangdong, Liaoning and Jilin, some universities also decided to put off their new semester start dates. 

In capital Beijing, while Tsinghua University, one of China's most prestigious universities, welcomed the arrival of 3,700 undergraduate freshmen as early as August 17, and Peking University, another renowned Chinese university, will welcome undergraduate and graduate freshmen on August 28 and 29, other universities, including the Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing Normal University and the Central Academy of Fine Arts, have adjusted their arrangements for the new semester, with some turning to online registration for freshmen, or putting off the new semester start dates until mid-September. 

The main purpose for these arrangements is to reduce the possible transmission of the virus by staggering the start dates of different colleges, a Beijing-based immunologist told the Global Times under the condition of anonymity on Sunday. 

Since there are still sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks in some places with a considerable number of asymptomatic infections, flare-up risks will exist if all universities start on the same date or during the same period with throngs of students coming in from across the nation, the expert said. 

"Students coming from different places with different levels of risks and with possible virus transmission risks through public transportation can pose risks to the campus," the immunologist and university professor said, noting that universities should prepare their specific management plans for the students upon their arrival.