Hong Kong schools are to suspend face-to-face classes from Wednesday until the Christmas break. Education authorities announced the school closures on Sunday as the city reported 115 new cases, the first three-figure rise since August.
Upper primary and secondary schools will join lower primary and kindergartens in pausing on-site classes. Lower primary and kindergarten classes have been suspended since last Monday. There will effectively be no further classes this year.
The Education Bureau is seeking to provide options for students to complete necessary exams and assessments on school premises. A spokesperson said the bureau understood that parents and teachers are “deeply concerned” about secondary school placement and public examinations.
“The EDB will discuss… possible options to allow schools to consider arranging students of Primary 6 to take internal assessment for the purpose of Secondary School Places Allocation and graduate classes to attend on-campus lessons to prepare for the public examinations or take internal examinations,” the spokesperson said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, private tutorial schools will be suspended for at least two weeks from Wednesday.
Emerging restaurant clusters
Emerging clusters have been identified at three restaurants on Hong Kong Island, with around 10 staff members and patrons infected collectively. Members of the public who have frequented restaurants Stellar House, 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana and Chuen Cheung Kui since November 15 are required to undergo mandatory testing. All three eateries have suspended their operations.
Staff at residential care homes are also required to be tested before December 14. Those who fail to do so face a HK$2,000 fine and a mandatory testing order, while those who fail to comply with a mandatory testing order face a HK$25,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said on Sunday that the ultimate aim was to provide weekly testing for high-risk individuals, with staff being required to show a negative test before being allowed to return to work.
The latest wave may be more severe than the preceding three, Centre for Health Protection head of communicable disease Chuang Shuk-kwan warned during Sunday’s press conference.
The city entered a fourth wave of infections in late November. Over half of Sunday’s cases are linked to a dancing hall cluster which accounted for a total of 479 infections of recent infections.
Of the 115 new infections, 24 were locally transmitted with an unknown source while six were imported. Hong Kong has reported a total of 6,239 since the beginning of the outbreak, with 109 deaths.