Coronavirus social distancing measures were extended in Hong Kong on Monday as the city continues to see dozens of new infections per day. Students will not go back to school for face-to-face teaching until after the Lunar New Year holiday, the government has announced.

Social distancing rules such as the dine-in ban after 6pm and two-person gathering limit have also been extended for two more weeks to January 20.

Covid-19 coronavirus virus student school
Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The city recorded 53 coronavirus infections on Monday, 43 cases were locally transmitted, and six of which had unknown sources.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said that it would be unlikely for social distancing restrictions to be relaxed before Lunar New Year: “There are still active invisible transmission link in the community, and relaxing these rules would very likely create a rebound, that’s why I hope that citizens can understand and tolerate [it] for a bit longer,” said Chan. “Judging by the current situation, the chances of relaxing these restrictions before Chinese New Year is not high.”

She added that the government would not rule out stricter rules if there was a rebound in the number of cases.

Limited school plan

While schools were ordered to stop face-to-face lessons until February, some students would be allowed to go back to primary and secondary schools, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung announced.

Secondary schools may organise two sessions per day for students to return to school for lessons or exams, though each session will not be able to host more than one sixth of the school’s capacity. The two sessions must consist of different groups of students to avoid pupils going out for lunch.

Daily covid update
Hong Kong’s daily coronavirus update press conference at the Central Government Complex following an announcement yesterday that it would be moved online. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Primary schools may only arrange to have up to one sixth of their students return to the school premises for lessons or exams in the morning.

Possible hospital outbreak

Meanwhile, a medical day ward at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung has recorded at least four preliminary coronavirus positive cases. 38 people were listed as close contacts.

Leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung visited the site on Monday, and said that it was likely that a patient from an estate building with confirmed cases infected other patients and medical workers.

He added that the ventilation at the ward had no issues, but it seemed that the patient had spread the virus when she took off her mask to have some food.

Yuen suggested that the Hospital Authority should test day ward patients for the coronavirus before letting them in the ward.

Princess Margaret Hospital is the second hospital in Hong Kong to have an outbreak, after United Christian Hospital’s outbreak in December.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.