China has canceled all English and aptitude tests for February amid uncertainty over the virus outbreak. The move will most likely affect enrollment schedules at educational institutions across the globe.

All English tests for IELTS, TOEFL and the GRE and GMAT graduate entry exams next month are canceled, China’s National Education Examinations Authority (NEEA) said. The severity of the situation calls for comprehensive “measures to contain the spread of coronavirus at all public venues, including test centers,” the authority said in its announcements on the closures.

Enrollment disruption

The cancellations may mean a delay in when some Chinese students can begin studies outside the country. That would not only affect matriculation planning for universities and schools, but could make it harder for China to achieve the promised increase in imports that it agreed to in the trade deal with the US. Chinese studying or traveling overseas is counted as an export of services, and the agreement commits China to almost double 2020 imports of services from 2017 levels.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the quarantined city of Wuhan on Monday as the death toll and number of infected continued to climb despite redoubled efforts to contain the virus. Confirmed cases in China surged to 2,744, while the latest death toll rose to at least 80.

Separately, Tsinghua University, one of China’s top institutions, announced that it would delay the beginning of classes for its spring semester, which was scheduled to start Feb. 17, to reduce the risk of transmission and ensure the health and safety of every student and staff. No new start date was given.

Extended Lunar New Year break

In addition to locking down the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan and surrounding cities in Hubei province, the government decided to extend the Lunar New Year break to avoid travelers exacerbating the disease’s spread when hundreds of millions of workers return to cities from their hometowns.

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Full refunds are available for people planning to take the tests in February and future registration and examination details will be announced according to the progress of epidemic prevention and control, NEEA said in the statement.

Source: Bloomberg