College entrance exam a test for officials in coronavirus-hit Guangdong

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As China’s industrial hub of Guangdong steps up its fight to contain an outbreak of Covid-19, the southern province faces another challenge: the annual college entrance examination.

Guangdong education officials say the exam will go ahead next week, and on Wednesday said measures had been put in place to keep students safe as they sat the notoriously difficult test.

Across the province some 636,000 students will take the exam, which is held nationwide and known as the gaokao.

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Since May 23, students have been required to report their health status every day and this will continue for two weeks, officials said.

They will also have to get tested for Covid-19 twice before they sit for the exam.

“We face a very complex situation this year for the entrance examination,” Jing Lihu, head of the provincial education department, told reporters.

“The task of epidemic prevention and control is very challenging. We also need to pay attention to factors like the summer heat and possible bad weather [next week].”

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Guangdong, which fared relatively well last year when the pandemic erupted in China, has been hit with a new wave of infections since May 21. There are now 73 locally transmitted cases, including 26 that are asymptomatic.

Travel restrictions have been imposed across the province and parts of Guangzhou, where most of the cases have been reported, have been locked down. Mass testing of residents is also under way.

There were 12 new cases on Tuesday, five of them asymptomatic, Liu Chengyong, deputy head of the Guangzhou Health Commission, said on Wednesday.

Two neighbourhoods in Liwan district – where a cluster of cases have been reported – have now been designated as high-risk and are locked down: the Zhongnan Street and Baihedong Street areas.

“We are striving to block transmission as quickly as possible under the existing conditions to contain the spread of the virus,” Liu said. “[We hope] the public understands these control measures.”

Mass screening is being conducted across Guangzhou, a city of more than 18 million people, and officials have temporarily suspended the public vaccination programme so that more medical staff are available to carry out tests.

Cases have also been reported in the neighbouring city of Foshan and in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.

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