All secondary schools must suspend in-person classes and in-school activities by next Monday at the latest, the government has announced. Schools are expected to remain closed until after the Lunar New Year holiday in an arrangement similar to that in place for kindergartens and primary schools.

Photo: GovHK.

Form six students who will take their Diploma of Secondary Education examination this year may return for half days during this period if necessary. They must, however, abide by strict anti-epidemic measures, an Education Bureau statement said on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, authorities warned that Hong Kong was facing a “very severe” coronavirus outbreak at it confronts a growing number of cases with unidentifiable sources of infection. A lawmaker urged the government to suspend secondary school classes after students from three schools tested preliminary positive.

Several areas in the Yau Tsim Mong and Shum Shui Po districts have recorded cluster outbreaks related to residential buildings.

Meanwhile, animal control authorities said they had culled 1,200 small animals to prevent possible transmission between species.

Battling ‘several fires’

The government is battling “several fires” at once as authorities struggle to identify the sources of infection for four local cases, Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Prevention said on Wednesday. “The pandemic is getting very severe, with some invisible and visible transmissions in our communities,” she said.

The city reported 16 cases on Tuesday, of which seven were locally transmitted. Two had unknown origins. About 20 cases identified this week have been connected to districts in Kowloon, including Shum Shui Po, Mei Fu, and Kwai Chung, including five students and teachers from the Delia Memorial School (Broadway in Mei Foo).

Sewage samples taken in Shum Shui Po tested positive for Covid-19, and authorities said there were concerns that invisible transmission is underway in the community. Residents in these areas are urged to get tested as soon as they can. Eight mobile testing stations were set up across Shum Shui Po.

Tuesday’s two cases with unknown sources included a 26-year-old kindergarten teacher infected with the Omicron variant living in Mei Foo, and a 79-year-old man who lived in Kwai Chung.

A 53-year old man living in the same Kwai Chung residential building also tested preliminary positive. He worked as a cargo driver at the airport’s freight terminal but did not come into direct contact with cargo, Chuang said.

Meanwhile 16 preliminary positive cases were identified on Tuesday, among which 10 were locally transmitted. They included the 53-year-old man and a 17-year-old student who attended school in Clear Water Bay, whose source of infection is unclear.

Four other preliminary positive cases were students from three other schools. They were found to be linked to one of the patients from the Delia Memorial School (Broadway).

1,213 animals culled

Meanwhile, the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department told local media that it had culled a total of 1,213 small animals as of Wednesday. They included 930 hamsters, 159 rabbits, 81 guinea pigs and 38 chinchillas, among several other species, HK01 reported.

File Photo: Notfellchen, via Flickr.

Authorities also took in about 60 hamsters that had been surrendered by their owners, which were awaiting virus tests before they would be “humanely handled,” or euthanised. Footage showed animal control officers in hazmat suits entering pet shops across the city to kill unsold animals.

The city has recorded 13,082 cases and 213 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic around two years ago.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.