Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen has said he respects the decision to close schools early for Lunar New Year amid a flu outbreak, but believes the government could have made better arrangements.

The government announced on Wednesday that kindergartens and primary schools are to be closed from Thursday. However, schools buildings must stay open even though classes will not be in session.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health’s Centre for Health Protection said it was investigating three more influenza outbreaks at two primary schools in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun, at a kindergarten and daycare centre in Sha Tin, as well as an “influenza-like illness” outbreak at a primary school in Kwai Chung. Eighty-four students and one staff member have been affected, while three of the students have been hospitalised.

Photo: GovHK.

Ip said told RTHK radio on Thursday that many schools told him they had little time to make preparations after the government’s announcement. “It’s very rushed… and it may have been difficult to arrange affairs in an orderly manner,” he said.

Ip added that matters of health and safety take priority, and he believes the decision was made by professionals. But he said the situation in schools would have been less chaotic if the government had made better arrangements.

“News came today that the government already reached a decision [on Tuesday night]… I believe, if there had been some advance notice given to us then, we would all have done better,” he said.

Ip Kin-yuen. File Photo: In-Media.

Lee Kam-kwong, Principal Assistant Secretary of the Education Bureau, did not directly respond to a question over whether the government had come to a decision on Tuesday, and said only that the government had been paying attention to the influenza outbreak.

He also said that the Education Bureau had sent relevant information to schools as soon as possible after the announcement, and thanked all parties for their cooperation.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.