China fears grow over coronavirus 2nd wave

Medical workers eat at separate tables at a canteen inside Xiaotangshan Hospital, a hospital built in 2003 to treat patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that is now used to treat patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China March 30, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

China will delay its national college entrance exam by a month as it grapples with a coronavirus pandemic as travellers returning from abroad are fuelling new cases and boosting concern over the threat of a second wave of infections.

The two-day “gaokao” annual test will be pushed back to July 7 and 8, China Central Television said on Tuesday, with Hubei province, where the virus emerged late last year, and Beijing, the capital, being given more leeway in scheduling it.

The delay to the test, seen as opening the way to a life of opportunity and taken by more than 10 million students last year, is the latest sign of China’s struggle to resume normal life after widespread lockdowns aimed at reining in the virus.

“China has slowed transmission of the virus and in so doing, has passed one peak in the outbreak,” said Tarik Jasarevic, a representative of the World Health Organisation. “The challenge now is to prevent a resurgence of new cases.”

The epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region was “far from over”, another WHO official added.

Last week, a study in British medical journal the Lancet Public Health recommended that China extend school and workplace closures, since an earlier relaxation of curbs could bring a second peak in the outbreak by August.

China’s tax authorities acknowledged the pandemic’s impact on exporters, saying they were studying policies to reduce pressure on businesses, from tax cuts to an extension of preferential policies for foreign firms.

New data from a survey of manufacturers showed that factory activity expanded in March from February’s collapse as businesses returned to work, but analysts warned that slumping external demand could prevent a durable recovery.