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Student volunteer project fears allayed

    Concern for the health of student volunteers at Shanghai Minhang District Central Hospital during the flu season was unnecessary and misplaced, the district’s health and family planning commission has said.

    A picture posted online of a middle school student helping out in the hospital’s respiratory department triggered a heated discussion about the risks to the student’s health.

    However, the Minhang District Health and Family Planning Commission said that the female pupil was part of a team of volunteers organized by the school and parents to encourage a sense of public duty in students during the annual winter vacation.

    On the day the picture was taken, five students had been working at the hospital, accompanied by a parent. Another 10 or so students had provided voluntary services earlier.

    The commission said the program had been temporarily suspended but that follow-up visits to the teenagers’ homes had shown they were all in good health.

    “The parents think it’s a good chance for their children to serve people at hospital for their social awareness,” an official with the commission revealed.

    But he said that it would be more careful in deciding where the students would be volunteering in future.

    Each volunteer at the hospital had been trained in how to protect themselves from infection, including the correct way of wearing a mask, and given other healthcare advice before they started, the commission noted.

    The hospital — one of the suburban district’s student social work bases — organizes various voluntary programs to give students a sense of public duty and improve their communication skills while also benefiting the patients.