All Hong Kong schools will gradually resume face-to-face classes after the Easter break early next month, the Education Bureau announced on Friday. The resumption will begin with half-day arrangements and cap the number of students allowed on school campuses to two-thirds of the school cohort.
“We expect that schools can arrange for students of each level to take turns to return to school for face-to-face classes so that all students will have the opportunity to have on-campus schooling, receive education through face-to-face classes, and have interactive learning with other students,” an Education Bureau spokesperson said on Friday.
The arrangements will cover kindergarten, primary and secondary schools as well as private tuition centres. Detailed arrangements will be communicated directly to schools next week.
The bureau said it aims to reinstate on-campus classes in a “pragmatic, gradual, and orderly manner… to strike a balance between meeting the learning needs of students and preventing and fighting the epidemic.”
Resumption of classes is also dependent on individuals schools arranging regular Covid-19 testing for teachers and staff.
“We encourage schools to continue to actively participate in the scheme. At present, the government is offering multiple locations and modes to facilitate virus testing. In addition, the fees for the testing services at the Community Testing Centres for teachers and staff have been waived,” a spokesperson said on Friday.
The Transport Department also announced a new round of free Covid-19 testing for the city’s taxi and minibus drivers as well as ferry operators on Friday, which will last two weeks from next Monday.
In addition, the Education Bureau called on teachers and school staff members to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
Education chiefs have also called on parents to observe anti-pandemic measures over the upcoming break: “During the schools’ Easter holidays, parents should continue taking precautionary measures for Covid-19 as well as pay close attention to the health conditions of their children.”
In-person classes at the city’s schools have been suspended since before the Christmas break.
The announcement comes as the city’s daily infections subside after a cluster of infections originating from a gym on Hong Kong island.
Hong Kong reported 11 new infections and one new coronavirus-related death on Friday. Eight of the new infections were imported while one of the local infections came from an untraceable source.
BioNTech vaccines disposed of
One medical expert has questioned health authorities’ decision to dispose of BioNTech vaccines with defective packaging before the vaccines were halted by the manufacturers earlier this week, according to RTHK.
Director of Health Dr Constance Chan said on Wednesday that 57 cases of defective packaging on BioNTech doses have been reported since it began to be administered in early March.
Prominent Hong Kong medical expert Dr Alvin Chan warned that “evidence” appears to have been destroyed.
“I am quite surprised that the Hong Kong authorities said that they had already discarded all the problematic bottles, or the vials of vaccine, when they were detected to be faulty,” he told a RTHK programme on Friday. “That means we don’t have those bottles as evidence for the company of BioNTech to check what had happened,” he said.
“To investigate the problem, at least these faulty bottles need to be examined meticulously by the company… to really solve the conundrum,” he added.
The administration of the German-manufactured vaccine has been halted since Wednesday pending an investigation by distributor and manufacturers into faulty lids.
420,900 people have received their first vaccine dose as of Thursday evening, of that number, 269,000 have received the China-manufactured Sinovac jab.
Separately, the government called on people subject to compulsory testing orders to be tested within the required time period after six people were found to have violated an order during an enforcement operation at Albron Court and Alassio in the Mid-levels on Friday morning.
“The government reiterates that the aim of issuing a compulsory testing notice is to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the community as soon as possible to protect overall public health and safety,” a government statement read.