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2020-04-07 12:42:27

China is planning to repatriate its underage students in the United States as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continues to rise.

In a statement Monday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. said it is gauging students’ interest in returning to their homeland, as many still remain in their host country. The embassy added that it is specifically focusing on minors, as they may face “practical difficulties” in their daily lives amid the pandemic.

“If temporary flights and chartered flights are arranged, priority will be given to minors based on the order of their ages,” the statement said.

There are more than 400,000 Chinese citizens studying in the U.S., and more than 90% of them are still in the country, according to a separate statement from the Chinese Embassy on Friday.

The students would be required to pay for the repatriation flight and follow quarantine protocol at their destination in China, according to the embassy.

While the official number of coronavirus cases in China has steadily declined, with zero deaths reported Monday, the equivalent number in the U.S. has been sharply rising. As of Tuesday, there were more than 360,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and over 10,000 deaths.

On March 28, China banned foreigners — including those with valid visas and work permits — from entering the country. The move was supposedly aimed at curbing imported infections, even though returning Chinese nationals were responsible for the vast majority of such cases.

Liu Jin, an official with the Ministry of Education, said last week that only 180,000 of China’s 1.6 million students abroad have returned during the pandemic.

The Chinese Embassy in the U.K. had scheduled a chartered flight departing last Thursday for less than 200 underage Chinese students who had yet to leave the country, after more than 160 families petitioned the embassy in mid-March for help sending their children home.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Passengers wait at a public health checkpoint at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, March 27, 2020. Yin Liqin/CNS)