Preparations made for students’ safe return home

Steps taken to ensure waning COVID-19 epidemic doesn't disrupt vacation

Graduating students prepare for the gaokao, or national college entrance exam, at Fuyang No 1 Middle School in Fuyang, Anhui province, on May 30, 2022. (WANG BIAO / FOR CHINA DAILY)

College students returning home for summer vacation will either monitor their health conditions at home for the first week or undergo free centralized quarantine, authorities said on Sunday.

As this year's summer holiday has begun amid a waning COVID-19 epidemic, a number of university students have complained about having difficulties returning to their hometowns, such as being required to go through lengthy isolation and cover expenses themselves.

To address their concerns, the State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism clarified in a circular released on Sunday that local governments should roll out targeted isolation policies and provide support for these students.

According to the circular, returning students who leave from cities that have recently reported new COVID-19 cases will be exempted from centralized isolation at their destinations if their universities are located in low-risk areas and they can present negative nucleic acid test results taken within 48 hours prior to departure. Their home trip must also have been made in a closed loop, directly from campus to home via dedicated buses or trains.

They still need to monitor their health conditions for seven days upon arriving home and report any abnormalities to local authorities.

For students who have to undergo centralized isolation to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, local governments should waive quarantine fees and satisfy their demands for accommodation and healthcare, it added.

Liu Peijun, an official at the Ministry of Education's department of physical education, health and the arts, said colleges and local governments should join efforts to log and exchange information on students planning to travel during the holiday.

For students who decide to stay put, he said college authorities are required to satisfy their need for internships, to conduct experiments or prepare for their theses and exams.

"Measures concerning dining, shopping and delivery services on campus should be upgraded, and public facilities for study, exercising and scientific research should be open based on requests," he said. "We should strive to make these students feel at home."

In the meantime, Liu stressed that disease control measures, such as regular nucleic acid testing and sanitization should be implemented strictly during the holiday period.

As the majority of college students take the train to and from home, Zhu Wenzhong, deputy director of the passenger transport department at China State Railway Group, said the railway operator has reserved some tickets specifically for students, allocating special waiting areas for them at stations and arranging designated carriages or trains.

"Nearly 30 special trains have been arranged for student passengers, including some departing from Shanghai," he said.

The railway operator has also launched two online systems dedicated to cataloging the needs of students as a reference for its train arrangements. As of Sunday morning, it has received over 50,000 pieces of information, according to Zhu.

Lei Zhenglong, deputy director of the National Health Commission's bureau of disease prevention and control, said that the number of daily local cases has been below 100 for six straight days, but new clusters have emerged in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.