Students wearing face masks arrive at the Huayu Middle School in Shanghai. AFP
Tens of thousands of students returned to school in Shanghai and Beijing Monday after months of closures intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as China's major cities gradually return to normality.
Shanghai students in their final year of middle and high school returned to classrooms, while only high-school seniors in Beijing were allowed back on campus to prepare for the all-important "gaokao" university entrance exam.
China has largely curbed the spread of the deadly disease, but is still on high alert with growing fears of imported cases and a second wave of domestic infections in the northeast.
Teenager Meng Xianghao said he was taking extra precautions on his first day back at Beijing's Chenjinglun High school.
"I'm glad, it's been too long since I've seen my classmates," said 18-year-old student Hang Huan. "I've missed them a lot."
A tent set up at the entrance was staffed by a person in a white hazmat suit, while a man wearing a container of disinfectant on his back sprayed the ground by the school gates.
Across the country, schools that have been closed or online-only since January began gradually reopening last month, while virus epicentre Wuhan is set to reopen its high schools on May 6.
Students in the capital will have their temperatures measured at school gates and must show a "green" health code on a special app that calculates a person's infection risk, according to China's Ministry of Education.
Footage from the Communist Party-run Beijing Daily showed some of the city's 49,000 high-school seniors in classrooms Monday, wearing masks at desks which were spaced evenly apart as teachers welcomed them back with speeches.
A screen at the front showed a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping, as the teacher talked to the class about the significance of overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.
In some cafeterias, students are assigned fixed seating spots spaced at least one metre apart.
In Shanghai, some schools have set aside special rooms for isolating students with "abnormal temperatures," the ministry said.
The long absence from classrooms has added to the pressure on final-year students preparing for the high-stakes "gaokao" exams, which is the only route to Chinese universities and notoriously difficult.
"At school there's a certain atmosphere for learning and at home there is not," said Wang Yuchen, a 17-year-old student.
China said in March that it would postpone the exams by one month to July this year.
The domestic outbreak in China — where the disease first emerged last year -- had largely been brought under control but then a fresh batch of cases was detected in the capital last week.
The SPEA said if parents are reluctant to send kids to the schools in the first phase of reopening, they can choose the distance learning option.
Exams will no longer be the challenge they look forward to, to let students knock on the door of success
According to the Our World in Data COVID-19, it said the share of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is well over 89% as of Nov.15, while the total vaccination rate of the population is over 98.10% as of Nov. 24.
The driver who caused the incident sustained moderate injuries after hitting a policeman.
This includes suspending the entry of travellers who were in these countries 14 days before coming to the UAE. Flight operations will continue to transport passengers from the UAE to these seven countries.