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1.4 millions students to return to school, Wuhan embraces fresh start

(Global Times)    10:55, August 31, 2020

Crowds fill a night market in Baocheng Road in Wuhan on Saturday night. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

For some Wuhan residents, the weekend before school reopens is leisure time to be spent with family, friends and loved ones, however, some children did not enjoy playing as much this time as some just could not wait to get back to school after more than 1 million local students in China’s city hit hardest by coronavirus stayed at home for more than half a year.

"I'm so happy that I can go back to school next week because I can see my teacher [surnamed] He again," Wang Xiyao told the Global Times on Saturday at the Chu River Han Street shopping district.

The 7-year-old girl said she is going to be a second grade student at a local primary school. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Wang, like all local students, had taken online classes and video chats with her teachers and classmates.

It has become an unforgettable memory for both local students and parents that the summer of 2020 was so different from the previous ones. Some students, who used to wish that their summer vacation could be extended as long as possible, became very eager to return to school.

On Tuesday, 2,842 local middle schools, primary schools and kindergartens in Wuhan will reopen, welcoming about 1.4 million students back, according to local authorities. Also, 83 universities in the city will resume offline classes gradually in September as the virus has been fully contained.

With schools reopening, Wuhan, which first reported COVID-19 cases and first imposed the unprecedented 76-day lockdown, declared in its way to the world that it has completely won the battle over the virus and its entire population is entitled to enjoy every positive emotion due to their huge sacrifice and massive efforts in fighting the tough battle. The past seven months have also shaped a collective memory for locals embedded with pain, love and a new understanding of life.

'Safest place'

When Yan Jiarui, a sophomore student at the school of geodesy and geomatics at Wuhan University (WHU), returned to school on August 22, he said he went out for dinner with his roommates to celebrate this comeback that was overdue.

"We left school and went back to hometown on January 10, and stayed at home to take online classes for over six months, which was a new experience, but not as good as studying on campus," the 21-year-old student told the Global Times on Friday.

Many college students like Yan, who said that although "they had been lucky" to leave the city before the lockdown, felt deeply affected to see the city where they made friends and pursued their dreams hit "pause" button with empty streets, closed shops and crowded hospitals at the early stage of the outbreak.

"I've been following the epidemic situation in Wuhan, I also donated 200 yuan ($29), as this is the city that I live in," Huang Fangjie, a student from the school of cyber science and engineering of WHU, told the Global Times.

To ensure a safe environment for school reopening, workers in white protective suits have been conducting disinfectant work at campuses across the city where signs and banners were displayed notifying people to follow the rules, take body temperature checks and keep a certain distance. It’s not mandatory to wear masks inside the school campus, but it is advised that people bring them along.

Huang, who is from Wuhu, a city in East China’s Anhui Province, said he felt assured when he knew that the epidemic had been contained in Wuhan. "As the city conducted full-scale nucleic acid testing, it’s the safest place now," he said.

Life is back

While some Western media outlets and posts circulating on social media cast doubts on whether Wuhan is really safe now, especially after pictures of a densely packed pool party drew public attention, even sparking concerns and outrage among some netizens as the world has seen COVID-19 cases surpass 25 million, locals in Wuhan won’t be disturbed by such doubt.

Some said they have learnt that the most important thing in difficult moments was to have faith, and believe that everything will be fine. When looking back on the over two months of strict home quarantine time, a local surnamed Du suddenly turned emotional, apparently with no way to stop tears. "The biggest change is in our mindset… and it’s such a great thing to be alive, and we should cherish what we have," she told the Global Times on Saturday.

As the city gradually resumes normal activities again, many locals can now enjoy their "guozao" tradition again at breakfast stalls which they are familiar with, ordering hot dry noodles, fried rice cakes or drinking cold beer with friends while eating barbeque on Friday night. Some popular night clubs are also back in business where the DJs take the lead, echoed by hundreds of partygoers who did not want to waste any single minute while being indulged by trendy beats.

A woman surnamed Du said she had not gone out for half a year and her first time to go shopping in the post-epidemic period was in July, after the city lifted its lockdown and finished testing everyone in the city. "It was like a rebirth. We are totally safe now," she said.

When talking about her feelings regarding the epidemic, Du, along with her friend surnamed Liu, were both wearing masks, which has become a habit to protect not only herself but also others. "It has nothing to do with fear or concern, it’s just following the government’s rules, being responsible to the people around you," she said.

Besides mask-wearing habits, it’s also commonly seen at shops, restaurants, hotels, cinemas and other public places that items like hand sanitizers and disinfectant are displayed, some are free to use. At each entrance of places such as shopping malls and swimming pools, visitors are required to show their health codes on their smartphones and register their routes.

"I feel like China was so strong during the pandemic. And it was so hard. And all the Chinese people worked so diligently to face this pandemic," Fatima, a student from Taroudant, southern Morocco, who has stayed in Wuhan since the outbreak began, told the Global Times on Friday.

Given coronavirus cases are still rising in her home country, Fatima said she frequently told her parents and friends in Morocco about the way that Wuhan handled the epidemic. "I feel that Wuhan is safe because people respect the rules," she said.

And at the giant swimming pool that had gone viral on social media in recent days, the pool party was still ongoing and Sunday was supposed to be last day for this year’s summertime carnival. Parents with their kids, young couples, friends and roommates continued enjoying dancing with the water waves on Saturday night. First opening in 2019, the pool party has become much more different for some visitors who had taken part before.

"I came to this pool party last year. But it was now the first time this year since the outbreak. Life is not easy, and we have to cherish everything that has been hard-won," a college student surnamed Jiang told the Global Times.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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