Chinese campuses close as Covid cases spike again

Senior officer dismissed because of cluster of cases at university in Jilin

March 18, 2022
Hong Kong- March 9 2022 under the 5th outbreak of Omicron, residents are forced to examine in mobile specimen collection station
Source: iStock

Universities in China have closed their campuses or switched to online teaching temporarily after a new round of Covid outbreaks in many provinces.

Institutions in the city of Jilin, which has reported about 10,000 cases since the new surge was detected at the beginning of March, have been shut down and some students have been transferred out of their campuses in case of cross-infection. The provincial government announced on 17 March that it would make sure antigen tests were available to all universities in the region.

Several institutions in Shanghai, which reported 260 positive cases on 17 March, have introduced stricter rules. Fudan University has shut down for two weeks and staff and students are not allowed to leave the campus or move between different sections within it. For the past week East China University of Political Science and Law has required all students and staff to stay on campus and take a daily PCR test.

Many universities in Lanzhou, including Lanzhou University, Lanzhou University of Finance and Economics, Northwest Normal University and Gansu Agricultural University, have switched to online teaching. Lanzhou University of Finance and Economics has also suspended all inbound delivery services and students have been asked to suspend their internships if they live on campus.

Institutions across the country, including Wuhan University, Jiangsu University and Harbin Institute of Technology, have taken similar measures to make sure students stay on campus.

The latest data indicate that on 17 March there were 1,226 confirmed cases across 31 provinces in China. There were 1,206 asymptomatic cases, which Chinese health authorities list separately.

Most Chinese institutions had been in long lockdowns for months after previous Covid outbreaks as part of the “zero case” policy, prompting students to launch a social media campaign questioning the rationale and scientific reasons behind the measures.

However, in the latest round of new cases, many have been found at higher education institutions, raising new questions about institutional strategies once the virus has entered a campus. Zhang Lifeng, the Communist Party chief at Jilin Agriculture Technology College, was dismissed last week after 68 positive cases were confirmed at the college in four days.

karen.liu@timeshighereducation.com

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