Students in Hong Kong have returned to schools for the first time in the new academic year, as the city recorded single-digit new coronavirus cases daily since Monday.
Schools opened their gates to students in secondary one, five and six, as well as those studying in primary one, five and six and kindergarten three on Wednesday. The Education Bureau announced last month that face-to-face teaching would resume in stages. Students in other forms will return on September 29.
HKFP visited a few schools in the Kowloon Tong area, where principals, teachers and staff were seen taking the body temperature of the arriving students and offering hand sanitisers at school gates.
Crystal Lam, acting principal of Kowloon True Light School (Primary Section), said the school had taken precautions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus on campus. Students had to follow lines marked on the ground to keep a distance from one another when queuing up, and they had to fill out a form declaring whether they had been in touch with any Covid-19 patients or close contacts, she said.
“We try our best to separate students in the classroom; we have also installed some partitions as a precaution against respiratory droplets,” Lam said.
Pupils who went back to school all wore face masks, while some put on extra protective gear, such as face shields. A student at the Kowloon Tong Government Primary School also had what appeared to be a portable air purifier around her neck. Many Hongkongers have been seen wearing the devices during the pandemic, but the city’s Consumer Council said last week that they had very limited effect in removing bacteria or pollutants.
As of Tuesday, Hong Kong has registered 5,046 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while the death toll stood at 103. The city has been battling to curb the third wave of infections since July when it saw over 100 daily cases for 12 days in a row. The daily coronavirus tally has fallen significantly in recent weeks.
While schools reopened on Wednesday, students could only attend classes for half a day, according to instructions by the education authorities. A parent who only gave her name as Ms Yip, told HKFP that she had to adjust her work schedule for a few days to accommodate the arrangement, but she was not too concerned about the health risks of letting her son return to school.
“We didn’t do anything special, we just reminded him how to put on a face mask and wash his hands,” she said.
Yip added she would ask her primary one son about his first day of school, as he had only interacted with teachers remotely via online platforms after the start of the new academic year on September 1.
“He didn’t really know what a normal primary school life was like,” she said.