The Hong Kong Education Bureau has announced that schools will reopen and resume face-to-face teaching in late September. The news comes as the city sees a steady drop in coronavirus cases with a single-digit rise in infections recorded on Monday.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said at a press conference on Monday that the authorities would allow students to return to schools for on-site lessons in two phases.
Starting on September 23, students in secondary one, five and six, along with those in primary one, five and six and kindergarten three, will attend classes on campus. The rest will follow on September 29.
Yeung said that, during the early stage of class resumptions, students may only stay in schools for half a day. Schools may arrange additional lessons for students beginning on September 16, but the number of students must be limited to no more than one sixth of the entire student body.
“After the class resumptions in May and June this year, we are confident that schools are able to carry [out] teaching and learning safely,” Yeung told reporters.
The head of the Education Bureau said schools must adopt a list of anti-epidemic measures, such as requiring students and teachers to wear a face mask, checking body temperatures and maintaining social distancing. The authorities will also provide face masks to students in need, he said.
The government has requisitioned 20 public school campuses as sample collection centres for its mass Covid-19 testing scheme, which will begin on Tuesday and will last for at least one week. When asked how the authorities will ensure those schools are safe for reopening, the education minister said they will carry out a formal cleansing as soon as the tests have completed.
“There should not be any concern about the hygiene condition of these schools even after the testing. And by the way, the testing itself is pretty safe,” Yeung said.
As of 2 pm on Monday, over 526,000 citizens have registered for the universal testing programme. However, an alliance of health care workers, district councillors and pro-democracy activists urged citizens to boycott the tests.
Hong Kong saw nine new coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the city’s total number of confirmed cases to 4,810. The local death toll rose to 89, after a 83-year-old female Covid-19 patient passed away at the United Christian Hospital during the morning.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said that, among the new infections, two were imported from Ethiopia and the Philippines, while five cases were linked to previous local infections. The health authorities are still trying to determine the sources of infection of two patients, including a 31-year-old woman who is 39 weeks pregnant.