The Education Bureau has announced that schools will not resume classes before March 16 owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said at a press conference on Thursday that the Bureau will “take into account professional advice from health experts, the readiness of schools, as well as the supply of epidemic preventive materials in the community in making further assessments and deciding on the exact date of class resumptions.”

Kevin Yeung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Globally, there have been over 60,000 confirmed cases of the new SARS-like Covid-19 virus and over 1,360 deaths, including one in Hong Kong.

Previously, the Education Bureau announced that schools would resume on March 2.

Yeung said the Bureau hoped to achieve a situation where schools could “suspend classes without suspending learning,” as they can use different methods – including e-learning – to maintain “students’ motivation and interest in learning, without exerting undue pressure on students and parents”.

When asked by a reporter if the Bureau would provide guidelines and daycare support for working parents, Yeung said the Bureau had advised schools to keep campuses open to accommodate individual students.

Students of the Xianggang Putonghua Yanxishe Primary School of Science and Creativity. Photo: Xianggang Putonghua Yanxishe Primary School of Science and Creativity.

Primary 6 exams for secondary school placements and Territory-wide System Assessment for Primary 3, Primary 6, and Secondary 3 will all be cancelled.

It remains uncertain whether the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination for university admissions, scheduled to commence in late March, will go ahead. “We maintain that we will make the decision by the end of this month,” said Yeung.

The Bureau is also set to offer a one-off subsidy for building cleansing to ease pressures on private kindergartens. And subsidies granted as a result of students withdrawing due to the virus will be maintained.

Yeung said there was no urgency for students currently staying in the Mainland or other countries to return to the city. Students should otherwise stay home as much as possible and avoid travelling aboard, to crowded places, and to group activities in order to prevent infections.

At a press conference last Friday, Yeung said cross-boundary students still have to comply with the mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on all mainland arrivals. “The daily commute is impractical under current measures,” Yeung said, adding that further arrangements would be discussed after classes resume.

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Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.