Children attend a short-track skating camp training in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin Province, Aug. 4, 2020. (Xinhua/Yan Linyun)
The first summer vacation after the COVID-19 outbreak subsided in China has seen a groundswell of enthusiasm for the country's sport-themed summer camps.
Despite stricter anti-virus measures, many summer camps continued to receive a deluge of applications from parents apprehensive about the health of their children after they were cooped up at home for extended periods.
"This year's summer vacation is relatively short, but we are seeing a surging number of summer camps with sports themes," said Guo Jianli, an instructor at a fencing club in south China's Guangdong Province.
"The epidemic forced children to stay at home for a long time, so their parents are looking for opportunities for them to have outdoor exercise," he said, adding the camp has been busy with applicants since the province allowed training institutes to resume service on June 2.
"Many parents raised concerns about their children's obesity when signing up. In our summer camp, a primary school student gained nearly 20 kilograms during the epidemic," said Kang Heng, general manager of a basketball training institution in north China's Hebei Province.
Though COVID-19 infections have tapered off in most Chinese regions, many institutions said they still have a raft of precautions in place, including capping the attendance of each camp.
A sailing camp under China Scout Education said that to reassure parents, it introduced stringent measures, including demanding that participants present health codes, canceling shared dining, and reserving rooms for emergency quarantine. The size of each camp has been cut from a maximum of 40 people to 20.
Such precautions did not drive away clients, and the company's week-long sea sports programs, featuring sailing and canoeing and priced at 7,980 yuan (1,145 U.S. dollars), have received as many applicants as last year, said Quan Mingrui, in charge of the camp's market promotion.
"In sea sports, people can keep a large distance, so it is quite safe. We also added training on epidemic prevention, like how to properly wash hands, disinfect, and use masks," Quan said.
English, math, and programming courses used to dominate the vacations of Chinese pupils, but sports training has been rising in popularity in recent years as China puts a greater focus on students' physical education. The epidemic is likely to reinforce the trend by bringing about a mentality change.
"Chinese parents always put children's exam scores first, but the epidemic has shaken that mentality," said Zhu Kunting, a summer camp teacher in Hebei.
"Parents attending our camp told me they've realized their children's health is of paramount importance," Zhu said, adding that their camp has been full since July, the start of the summer vacation.
Zhang Wenxing, an 8-year-old participant at the camp, was busy building a house with tree branches when approached by Xinhua reporters.
"I've been staying at home for the past few months. My home is in a highrise and has no yard. It's very boring," the boy said while proudly displaying his sweaty face. "I love it here because I can play with a lot of friends."