Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced today that all the city’s kindergartens, primary schools, and childcare centres will need to close by January 14, set to reopen after the Lunar New Year break, due to the local spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Over the past week, three children contracted the virus from their parents and attended classes before they were diagnosed. This resulted in the teachers and students, considered close contacts of these children, being sent into quarantine, something that Lam said was “very undesirable.” There has been an increase in cases of upper respiratory tract infections with symptoms similar to Omicron in schools, creating uncertainty whether they are URTIs or Omicron infections.
The CE added that schools can also close before January 14 at their managements’ discretion. The closures will not apply to secondary schools.
There has been much speculation about whether schools would shut during the past week, with the Education Bureau even issuing a statement to refute rumours that schools would close on January 12. The CE earlier said that the government was exercising caution about suspending in-person classes out of concern for students’ mental well-being.
Lam also stated that the city will lower the age limit for Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to include children in the 5 to 12 age group. Currently, only children aged 12 and above are eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations. They will be provided with Sinovac jabs by outreach programmes at schools after they reopen. It is yet to be announced whether vaccination will be mandatory for students to attend in-person classes.
Header image credits: Chong Fat, CC BY-SA 3.0