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Thousands of domestic university students are returning to Wuhan, China, where the Covid-19 pandemic originated, as campuses have been reopened there with strict social distancing norms in place around seven months after physical classes were suspended.

International students, including hundreds from India, are still not allowed to return to Wuhan, the capital of the central Chinese Hubei province, because of the grim pandemic situation outside China. On-campus classes are expected to begin in a week.

Universities and schools were shut indefinitely in Wuhan after the city was locked down on January 23 to contain the Covid-19 spread. The disease first emerged at a seafood and meat market in this central Chinese city before spreading to the rest of China, and then the world, infecting millions and battering the global economy.

Schools were reopened in a staggered manner as the outbreak slowed in China even as university campuses remained shut mainly because of the infection risks associated with student dormitories.

Returning students will need to carry their updated health cards, showing them as negative for the virus.

As of Monday, over 9,000 students had returned to the Wuhan University from different parts of China, official news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. Another 20,000 students were expected to return in batches.