Live updates: Coronavirus pummels financial markets; Japanese island declares state of emergency

Live updates: Coronavirus pummels financial markets; Japanese island declares state of emergency

BEIJING — In China, parents and students alike are beginning to wonder: When will schools reopen?

The subject of the reopening of schools, shut across the country for weeks already due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, trended on social media on Friday after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged universities, schools, and kindergartens to further postpone the spring semester in a bid to prevent infections among children.

“In principle, universities, schools, and kindergartens should continue to postpone campus reopening,” the premier said at a Thursday meeting in Beijing, adding that a strengthened protection of children and elderly people is in line with Communist Party central instructions to introduce more targeted epidemic-control measures.

Asked whether college entrance exams would be delayed, China’s Vice Minister of Education Weng Tiehui said at a Friday briefing that they are “keeping close watch on students’ and parents’ concerns” and would announce relevant work arrangements after “careful and cautious research.”

More than 10 million students are expected to sit this year’s college entrance exams, which usually fall on June 7-8.

Few local governments in China have set concrete timeframes for resuming regular classes. Guizhou, a province in China’s mountainous southwest, announced on Thursday that Grade 9 and Grade 12 students will be allowed to return March 16 to revise for graduation exams or college-entrance exams. A more general school reopening would be announced later after further “scientific evaluation,” it said.

Most provinces have encouraged online learning for students, focused on revision and non-academic subjects — music, fine arts, indoor exercises, education on epidemic control and personal hygiene — out of concerns of poor remote education quality and inequality for kids with no tech help and adult supervision.

On social media, some parents worried about the strain home-schooling would put on families. “It’s a headache for working-class parents because we cannot handle work and children at the same time,” one mother wrote on Weibo. “Kids will be left home by their own. So work resumption should be delayed like school openings.”

Some students weren’t happy either. “Personally I don’t care about school that much, but online learning is just killing me: so much homework and so much reading to do!” a college student wrote. “It is worse than going to school.”

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