After studying online at home for nearly three months, some students in Shanghai can return to campus from next month with strict pandemic prevention and control measures, as the city’s COVID-19 resurgence wanes.

Third and second-grade students of local high schools will return to class from June 6 to prepare for the college entrance exam, known as gaokao, which has been postponed for a month to early July.

Third-grade middle-school students will return to offline classes from June 13 to get themselves ready for the high-school entrance examination scheduled for July 11 and 12, according to the Shanghai Education Commission.

“It is not mandatory. Students and parents can decide whether to return to school or keep studying at home,” Yang Zhenfeng, deputy director of the commission, told the city’s daily COVID-19 press briefing yesterday.

Other primary, middle and high-school students will keep studying online from home through the end of the semester. Families having difficulty taking care of children at home can apply for their return to school from June 6.

Before the end of the semester, local schools can arrange students’ return to the campus once for some activities, such as the graduation ceremony for fifth graders of primary schools, Yang explained.

Children at kindergartens and nursery schools should not return to school.

Some 1.56 million students of local primary, middle and high schools have shifted to online classes from home since March 12.

At least three rounds of disinfection will be conducted at schools that once served as makeshift hospitals or transfer sites for positive cases before Sunday to spare at least a week to ensure the ventilation of the disinfected campuses, said Yang.

Other schools will also undergo thorough disinfection and cleaning before receiving returning students.

All schools will set up polymerase chain reaction sample collection sites to ensure each student will receive a PCR test at school every day, and the results will come out within 12 hours before they go to school the next morning.

Every day, each student and teacher must take an antigen self-test before going to school and a PCR test before leaving the school, along with two temperature checks at the school.

Students and teachers of different classes or grades will avoid contacting each other. If any infection is discovered, quarantine measures will be conducted to minimize the number of students affected.

Students testing positive after returning to school will be transferred to Oriental Land, which is the city’s teenager extracurricular activities campsite in suburban Qingpu District, for medical observation. The city will arrange online education and guidance for these students.

Emergency response and supply reserves will be prepared. District governments are also required to prepare sufficient supplies that can be used for at least a month for each school.

Close contacts will be transferred to central quarantine hotels arranged by the district governments. Parents are allowed to accompany their children for quarantine, while teachers will also give online classes.

Makeshift hospitals specially for sitting exams and emergency exam sites will be set up for infected examinees and close contacts, Yang revealed.

“Parents must be worried and anxious because the college and high-school entrance exams are related to their children’s future and prospects,” Yang noted. “We will try our best to create an ideal study and examination environment for the students.”

He also said teachers will give customized help to students who were infected with COVID-19 or underwent central quarantine, along with those whose parents are taking part in the anti-COVID-19 fight, or who have poor study conditions.

The final exam of this semester will be canceled for students between the first grade at primary schools and the second grade of middle schools. It will be replaced by a comprehensive evaluation based on their online learning performance.

The districts and schools will also arrange specialized transportation to pick up and send back students with difficulties to ensure their safety.

Meanwhile, the number of local infections dropped to 338 on Wednesday, with none outside quarantined areas.

All the close and secondary contacts of the city’s latest community infection case reported in suburban Jiading District on Tuesday have tested negative twice, Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai Health Commission, told the press briefing.

Shanghai is set to emerge from its lockdown next month, with the focus turning to recovery.

Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday that the difficulties China is facing in some aspects are even greater than in 2020 when the country was first hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The world’s second-biggest economy will strive to achieve “reasonable” GDP growth in the second quarter, Li told thousands of government officials across the country in an online conference.

The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, yesterday said it will promote more credit for smaller companies and has urged financial institutions to prioritize lending to central and western regions, as well as areas and sectors hammered by coronavirus outbreaks.

The finance ministry also said yesterday that it would offer subsidies to Chinese airlines from last Saturday to July 20 to help them weather the coronavirus-induced downturn and higher oil prices.

Domestic air traffic has plummeted amid the pandemic, with Shanghai-based China Eastern revealing that passenger numbers sank 90.7 percent in April from a year earlier.

Overall air passenger traffic last month plunged nearly 85 percent year on year, and stood at barely 15 percent of its pre-COVID level in 2019, China’s aviation regulator said yesterday.

Offering a glimmer of hope, however, the China Passenger Car Association announced yesterday that national vehicle sales rose 34 percent in the first three weeks of May compared with the corresponding period in April.

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