More than 11,000 Wuhan students poured into a stadium for their graduation ceremony sans masks or social distancing, even as the rest of Asia grapples with COVID lockdowns
Some 11,000 students at a Wuhan university and their parents attended a mass graduation ceremony held in a stadium more than 18 months after the pandemic first began in the city.
The graduates in the pandemic’s former epicenter were not wearing masks nor social distancing.
This is because China has reported less than 20 cases per day across its 23 provinces.
For more than 11,000 students in a Wuhan university’s graduating class, it was like COVID never happened.
The students turned up en-masse in robes and mortarboards for Central China Normal University’s graduation ceremony on June 13.
Notably, the crowd of students was neither wearing masks nor social distancing, a marked contrast from intense COVID lockdowns in Japan and the mask mandate that still stands in parts of Asia like Singapore.
According to local news outlet Hubei News, the ceremony was held at a stadium within the university’s campus and was attended by more than 11,000 students. The outlet wrote that over 3,000 parents were given seats to watch their children graduate, bringing the total number of people in the stadium to over 14,000.
Welcoming the graduating classes was a red banner, which bore a line from an ancient Chinese poem that read: “The ocean is boundless for leaping fish.”
Students in the class of 2020 made posts on Weibo (the country’s version of Twitter) celebrating the event. One student with the ID Panghuhudewangwangya wrote: “I’m back at school, fulfilling the regrets of not being able to graduate last year.”
Another student wrote: “Thank you to my school for giving us, the class of 2020, a graduation ceremony.”
This mass graduation ceremony took place in what had been in late 2019, the epicenter of the COVID pandemic. The virus was first detected in the city in Hubei province, after which its 11 million residents were forced into lockdown mode for 76 days.
In the months following the lockdown, Wuhan bounced back and began holding large-scale public events in August 2020, months before other global centers made similar moves.
The country’s most recent restrictions came after two cases were reported on June 14 in the southern province of Guangdong, which sparked strict travel restrictions, mass testing, and frenzied vaccination drives. In April, small-scale COVID outbreaks in the southwestern Yunnan province were also met with aggressive mass-testing measures and immediate city-wide lockdowns for 72 hours.
China has managed to keep its locally-transmitted community cases to a minimum by putting all travelers to the country under a strict “14+7” day quarantine procedure, where one must spend 14 days at a facility and a further week of self-quarantining at home.
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