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An international student's view on China's pandemic control

By ALI ABBAS | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-05-27 16:04

The author receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Wuhan is an education hub with more than 30 colleges and universities welcoming students around the world. The COVID-19 epidemic had paused studying, socializing and traveling for all students in China. During the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, the entire city was facing a strict lockdown. Many countries had evacuated their students from Wuhan. Now China has successfully controlled the spread of coronavirus and the strict lockdown is over. People are enjoying as usual their daily life routines, going to markets, shopping centers, leisure centers, offices and business. The international students in Wuhan are also getting back to their lives as well.

The students who are currently living in China are more optimistic about their studies. They are consistently applauding China for successfully controlling the pandemic. The students are happy to have stayed in Wuhan during lockdown because they believed in China’s capacity to fight against the unknown enemy. Many students were engaged in volunteering with the university international student office. Initially students were worried about the unknown virus and afraid they too would contract the disease, their fears fuelled by misinformation. China’s efforts to contain the virus have affected the cities, preventing 56 million people from travelling during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, normally one of the busiest travel times of the year.

After the end of the lockdown, students greeted each other and realized that their decision not to evacuate was smart. The world media was spreading false news and information about Wuhan, while the students were happy to be quarantined for more than two months because it was all for the safety of the people. All international students are grateful to the university administration for taking care of them during pandemic.

A group of students from Africa, Russia and Pakistan at Central China Normal University were thankful to the university international office that they were not alone during the pandemic and lockdown. The responsible officials were always there for our assistance, psychological counseling and encouragement. They said the university international office has repeatedly arranged trips for international students to different scenic and historical places in Wuhan after the lockdown. We were happy when university was officially opened and Chinese students returned to the campus in order to resume the classes. We met with our Chinese friends, seeing each other after a long time, and the moments are most unforgettable for us. A student from Tanzania at Central China Normal University, happy to have stayed in Wuhan, said, "It is true that I was more safe here China." Another student from Pakistan said his country believes in China’s capacity and medical department to control the spread of the virus, adding, "We stand with the people of China in any trouble together -- we can defeat the coronavirus."

The international students who are in China can complete their courses and research by going to lab. Their studies are not highly affected by the virus as compared to the international students who are now at their home countries. China was the country which detected the virus and immediately published the sequence of the virus. Because of the swift publication of the virus sequence it was possible for the world to develop vaccines. Secondly China put strict quarantine measures in place in the whole country, reducing the transmission of the virus. International students who were living in China were provided food as well as masks and regularly advised by their schools. As a result none of the international students were affected due to the virus. Therefore the perception of the students has changed. Rather than going back to their countries, they have become mentally and psychologically ready to stay in China and pursue their education. Some of the countries brought their students back from China, and those students’ studies have affected. But their perception about China on virus control is very positive because they have been advised the virus would be controlled and they do not need to go back to their home countries.

Post-pandemic vaccination and student life in China

China started reporting daily vaccinations in late March 2021. On March 25, 2021, the college of international culture exchange, Central China Normal University notified all international students in the school about vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccine was voluntary, not compulsory, and all international students appreciated the measures and vigorous steps taken by the school administration. Foreign students voluntarily got COVID-19 vaccines, a service offered free of cost by the school administration to all foreigners. The whole vaccination process very smooth. All students went together to the nearby school hospital, where the officials stood together with the students and assisted them with registration. Later on, May 5, 2021, international students got their second dose of the vaccine. Over 100 international students of CCNU completed their immunizations. It also marks the timely assistance from the Chinese government and help provided for the whole international community in need. Actually the vaccine was domestically developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and from Sinovac Biotech.

International students pose for a photo after vaccination at the school hospital. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

As a foreign student in China, I can better understand the student life in a foreign country. Many countries in world are still struggling to control the spread of virus, and are lacking in the production of vaccines as well. At the same time we are feeling safe in China and happily engaged in our studies. I have talked to many foreign students in China, and they all are appreciative of the measures taken by the school administration. Student life has recovered now, so students can move around and hang out with their friends. Some international students said that their countries are still in trouble because there aren't enough vaccine doses. But we are in China and already vaccinated now, so we feel safe and can freely continue our studies without any fear and restrictions.

However, despite being the first place to be hit by COVID-19, China has a centralized epidemic response system. The speed of China's response was the decisive aspect. China worked very quickly to stop transmission, while other countries, which had much longer to prepare for the arrival of the virus, delayed their response and ultimately lost control. In August 2020, Wuhan also hosted a huge pool party to celebrate the defeat of virus. The people showed the world that the pandemic has been controlled in Wuhan as well as in China.

The author is a doctoral student at the School of Politics and International Studies, Central China Normal University in Wuhan.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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