As many as 170 million Chinese children will undergo drug tests, after it was revealed that pupils were secretly being given antiviral medication by their schools.
China’s Education Ministry has ordered a nationwide investigation into the issue after a demonstration by parents of young children who were given the drugs.
This comes a week after an angry protest led by parents whose children were allegedly given moroxydine hydrochloride – a drug invented in the 1950s to halt the spread of flu – in the city of Xi’an.
Some of the children involved suffered stomach pain, dizziness and other symptoms – but authorities say it is unclear whether it was linked to the drug.
Police in Xi’an said two nursery schools gave children the medication to improve attendance rates and subsequently, to boost their incomes.
Detectives said they have already detained suspects and are trying to determine how extensively the medication was used.
A nursery in the city of Jilin was also found to be giving the drug to students.
Xinhua News Agency said that authorities shut down a Yichang nursery after its president admitted giving pupils an over-the-counter anti-fever drug and vitamins to boost immunity and attendance.
Parents only found out about the secret drugs in Xi’an earlier this month when one young boy told his mother that he had been ‘taking medicine’ to ensure he would ‘never get sick again’.
The scandals have raised public concerns over the safety and health of young nursery children at nurseries where fees are paid only for the days attended.
Chinese officials have said they will now be conducting a very thorough inspection of all nurseries, primary schools and middle schools in the country.