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China hospitals set up ‘homework zones’ so sick children can study during pneumonia outbreak

China hospitals set up ‘homework zones’ so sick children can study during pneumonia outbreak

Hospitals in China have set up special "homework zones" for children battling respiratory illnesses amid an outbreak of pneumonia in the northern part of the country.

China is grappling with a surge in cases of respiratory illnesses in children due to an "overlap of known pathogens" as the country braces for its first winter since lifting the stringent Covid-19 restrictions.

The rising number of cases has "overwhelmed" the hospitals in the capital Beijing and neighbouring cities, with thousands of patients reporting to outpatient and emergency departments daily.

Chinese health authorities last week claimed no novel viruses were detected and the cases were linked to viruses such as influenza, rhinoviruses, the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, the adenovirus, as well as bacteria such as mycoplasma pneumoniae that infects the lungs.

The bacteria is a common cause of "walking pneumonia" – a non-medical term for a mild case of pneumonia.

Images and videos of children doing homework while receiving intravenous drips in the hospital have triggered a debate on social media.

Young children were provided with chairs, desks and infusion frames for them to study while receiving drips in Jiangsu and Anhui, and central Hubei provinces, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Children wearing masks were seen completing their homework while their parents helped them.

Hospitals popularised separate study zones for sick children a couple of years ago and parents have since then encouraged the practice.

A parent at one of the hospitals said they didn't "intend to let my kid do homework here" but the good study atmosphere at the hospital prompted her to push her kid to do his homework.

“My kid had to do his homework this way because if he did not finish it, he would have to do a lot more when he returns to school after he recovers,” a father told the broadcaster.

Parents were criticised for putting their sick children through study at a time when they should've been resting.

"This picture is real and children doing their homework in hospitals is common in China. We live in a country of hell mode," said one user on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The practice is “very common in China”, declared one X user. “Some hospitals even have a permanent area reserved for these students who ‘like’ to do homework and it’s something they publicise and brag about,” the social media user added.

“These kids may be physically ill, but these adults are mentally ill,” an online observer said on Chinese social media platform Douyin, according to the South China Morning Post.