Mumbai: With China dropping its zero Covid policy after almost three years, Indian medical students who called the East Asian country home before the pandemic are making a return now to continue their studies.
23,000 Indian medical students had enrolled in universities across China before the world came to a halt due to Covid-19, which disrupted their studies.
Though the return to China is one that students feel ends uncertainty in their academic future, a change of surroundings has impacted the students.
China’s post-Covid surveillance sets a different tone for students
“Everything is now digitised in China. No manual work is seen here now,” stated Reeba Khan, a fifth-year MBBS student at the Hubei University of Medicine, who
IHS Markit, a London-based information services provider, had estimated in 2021 there are over 1 billion surveillance cameras installed worldwide, with 54% of them located in China. The country has a reputation for being one of the most surveilled cities in the world, has also imposed its tactics across campuses.
“There are face monitors everywhere which was not the case before. On every entry and exit point, there’s one. Either it’s your campus classroom or hospitals,” stated Khan, who believes this system is for Covid protection so that students don’t have to touch anything.
Masks and PPE kits new normal amid an unexpected hostility
Though masks are not mandatory in China anymore, students are still wearing them to protect themselves amid continuing fears around the BF.7 Omicron variant which is driving a surge of infections in the country, according to reports. The return of foreigners to China amid the surge has led to a reaction, which Indian students were not familiar with before the pandemic.
“There are masks and PPE kits across China, which was expected, but one of the major changes we witnessed was the fact that many Chinese nationals were not happy seeing international students back in the country. They think we will bring Covid to them, which is not the case as many of them are either asymptomatic or infected,” stated Rachita Kurmi, a 4th-year student from Shandong University.
Indian students at Hubei University | Reeba Khan
Students relay quarantine experience
Though China lifted quarantine requirements for overseas travellers on Sunday, January 8, many international students went through the gruelling process in different parts of the country before joining their universities, where they followed another 7 days of movement restrictions.
“I quarantined in Kunming for seven days and then at a hotel in Harbin for another eight days. All students have to follow a seven-day mandatory quarantine at their respective university campuses,” explained another student Akshra Singh, a student at Harbin Medical University.
Students who came via Hong Kong also had to go undergo a mandatory 3-day medical surveillance before taking their flight to China.
“After spending 3 days in Hong Kong, I also underwent a centralised quarantine in Wuhan for 10 days,” stated Khan.
Universities across China are following a quarantine process at campuses and dormitories for 7 days, because of the duration it takes to detect a Covid positive person.
China’s criticism over Covid data has intensified because the country has not updated its daily tally for the past four days, raising concerns on whether it is hiding information.
Masks are not compulsory in China but most people wear it for protection, according to students | Reeba Khan
People wearing masks inside supermarkets in China | Reeba Khan
Bangkok emerges as favourite over Hong Kong, Singapore
Akshra, like other students, has had to face the repercussions of not being able to board direct flights between India and China, which have been stopped due to Covid. Such students have been travelling to the neighbouring country through connecting flights.
Though Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, or Singapore have been the traditional options for these students, a cheaper and easier route through Bangkok has also helped students.
China’s Covid situation won’t result in the connecting flights being stopped, according to reports, albeit talks on direct flights haven’t been fruitful.
Shandong University in China | Rachita Kurmi
China’s tiff with India, not causing issues, say students
The return to China for medical students in India became a gripping topic for news media across the country which was already covering a similar scenario with Ukraine-returned Indian medical students. India and China’s growing tensions led to more concerns about the students’ immediate future and if they will ever be able to finish their degrees. Though their return to China has put that story to rest for now, the question of safety remains as the country grapples with the Covid crisis.
“Things are going smoothly in China right now, it’s not how it’s being portrayed in the media,” stated Rachita, who is experiencing winter holidays in the country.
International students have to undergo seven day quarantine in Chinese universities | Rachita Kurmi
China University succumbs to NMC rules
Universities across China are closed for the spring festival, as many of them are set to open in the first week of February 2023. While the reopening will lead to students finishing their fifth year and moving on to the sixth, Hubei University of Medicine will be witnessing its last Indian batch in 2023 as NMC has not approved the institute as one of the recognised medical colleges from China.
Indian visa applicants for China to rise in 2023
According to China's English language media outlet, Global Times, the number of Indian students applying for Chinese visas will rise in 2023.
The Chinese Embassy in India resumed services for 10 types of ordinary visa in late August 2022, which includes long-term study, business, work, family visits, personal visits, talent introduction, among others, according to the report.
Joint efforts between India and China have led to 6,200 Indian students obtaining visas to China, with the number expected to rise this year due to the latest visa policy adjustment, according to the Chinese Communist Party-funded newspaper.
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