Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday that schools in Hong Kong will not resume classes in April as planned due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a media briefing before the Executive Council meeting, Lam said it was “not possible” to resume all classes on April 20 in view of the current public health situation. She said even if classes could resume after containment of the outbreak, schools could only reopen in phases.

Students in Hong Kong. File photo: GovHK.

“We will be starting with the oldest students in the senior secondary [education], so the chances [of] very young kids [going] back to school within one to two months will be quite slim,” she said.

Lam added the government has been stocking up on children’s face masks to ensure sufficient supplies to support the resumption of classes.

Schools in Hong Kong have been suspended since February in response to the outbreak. First detected in China’s Hubei province, more than 182,000 people globally have been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 7,100 have died. The World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak a global pandemic last Wednesday.

Additional return flights for overseas students

Popular study abroad destinations for Hong Kong students such as the UK and US have recorded a spike in Covid-19 cases. The UK has confirmed over 1,500 infections, while the US has more than 4,600.

Carrie Lam at a media briefing on March 17. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Lam said the government has noted that many Hong Kong students studying overseas have returned before the end of the term.

To cope with the influx of returning students, Lam said that Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific had agreed to arrange additional flights from the UK and US this week. Flights from London and Manchester will increase from 12 to 21, and two flights will be added to the existing 23 flights from different cities in the US.

The airline will also use a bigger aircraft with more seats to increase capacity. The government has also given 67,000 face masks to Cathay to distribute to Hong Kong citizens before boarding, Lam added.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.