From February 24, anyone entering a school or tutorial centre – apart from students – will be required to have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the Hong Kong Education Bureau (EDB) announced on Thursday.

The new measure came as the government was looking into bringing the start date of the “vaccine bubble” forward to February 4 at designated premises, which would only allow those who had received at least their first vaccine dose to enter.

Photo: GovHK.

The vaccine bubble in schools will apply to all staff members, service providers, and visitors to kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and tutorial centres in the city. Exemptions will be made for certain people, including those who are unvaccinated because of health reasons.

Teachers and staff members must also be fully vaccinated by April 21. Unvaccinated teaching staff will not be allowed to teach or perform their duties, even online or off-campus.

“Although the ‘vaccine bubble’ arrangement does not apply to students, the EDB urges students in the relevant age groups to get vaccinated as soon as possible to better protect themselves and others, and to have more opportunities to participate in learning and extra-curricular activities,” a government statement published on Thursday evening read.

Hong Kong has recorded 13,096 infections and 213 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic around two years ago.

Government condemnations over hamster cull

The Chief Executive’s Office and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) issued separate statements on Thursday condemning people who sent “intimidating messages” to a medical expert and those who had stopped people from surrendering their hamsters following a plan to cull some 2,000 small animals over an untraceable Covid-19 Delta variant linked to a pet shop.

File photo: dep377, via Pixabay.

Leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said on Commercial Radio on Wednesday that he had received emails “telling him to die” after he supported the government’s decision to “humanely dispatch” the animals.

“The decision and operation of the HKSAR Government were based on scientific principles and Hong Kong’s actual circumstances to safeguard public safety,” the statement from the Chief Executive’s Office read.

“The Government strongly condemns the irrational attitude adopted towards the anti-epidemic efforts, and worse still, intimidating remarks made against the experts, by a minority of people. It calls on all sectors of society to unite to fight the epidemic.”

By Thursday, the AFCD had culled 1,213 small animals collected from pet shops. The government also urged owners to hand over hamsters bought on of after December 22 last year, which would be killed regardless of whether they tested positive for Covid-19.

Concern groups and volunteers were outside AFCD’s New Territories South Animal Management Centre in Sha Tin to attempt to stop owners from surrendering their pets.

“The AFCD condemns such action and stresses that it obstructs the department from carrying out its work, and will also pose health risks to themselves and public,” the department said in a statement. The centre has received 68 hamsters so far.

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Candice Chau

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.