Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced at a Covid-19 briefing on Monday that students need to test negative using daily rapid antigen tests before they can attend classes once schools reopen starting April 19. The CE also provided details about the conditions under which schools can resume in-person classes.
Lam explained that both teachers and students will be required to show a negative test result in order to enter schools. “If it is positive, they will have to report to the Department of Health as soon as possible,” said Lam, adding that the government will provide schools with testing kits. The authorities will later review whether daily testing is necessary based on the pandemic situation.
Secondary schools can resume face-to-face classes in a phased manner after the Diploma for Secondary Education (HKDSE) core subject exams have been conducted. “After the HKDSE core subjects are finished – that is, on May 3 – classes will resume in stages starting with half-day classes,” said Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung, adding that all students should be in school by May 10.
Since the vaccination rate among the 3-11 age group is low – 62% for two doses and 58% for one dose – there is no plan for that group to start full-day classes at the moment. Primary schools can resume half-day in-person classes starting with the older classes on April 19, followed by whole-school resumption by May 3. Kindergartens will reopen in three phases: one-third of students will return to school starting May 3, followed by a one-third increase every week until May 16.
Special needs schools and international schools will be given flexibility in deciding how they will reopen. Tutorial schools can resume half-day face-to-face classes by May 4. Schools that cannot resume in-person classes can continue to provide online learning to their students.
Unvaccinated students barred from non-masked activities
The Secretary for Education said that even though secondary school students have met the 90% vaccination rate requirement for the resumption of full-day in-person classes, the resumption of full-day face-to-face learning will depend on the “actual circumstances.” While it will not be mandatory for students to get vaccinated to attend school, there will be “separate treatment” for vaccinated and unvaccinated students.
“For students who have received two jabs, schools can arrange for them to take part in extracurricular activities […] that do not require wearing a mask” such as sports and playing musical instruments, said Yeung. He added that this should incentivise unvaccinated students to get their Covid-19 jabs.
The Director of Health, Ronald Lam, also outlined the following indicators which could lead to Covid-related class suspensions. The Centre for Health Protection will use them on a case-by case basis:
- At least 5% of students and teachers in a school test positive.
- At least 10% of positive cases in a school occur in a certain class or gathering.
- A student develops a serious disease and needs to be admitted to the ICU, or passes away.
If a student or teacher is identified as a close contact of a Covid-19 case, it will not trigger a school suspension.
In general, the CE said, all teachers and students must adopt “the most stringent personal protective measures.” This includes “wearing of masks and [undergoing] temperature checks before they enter school campuses and social distancing.”
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