Students and teachers in Hong Kong will have to take Covid-19 rapid antigen tests on Tuesday and Wednesday before the new school year begins on Thursday.
Speaking during the regular Covid-19 press briefing on Monday, the Head of the Communicable Disease Branch at the Centre for Health Protection Chuang Shuk-kwan said she was aware of the requirement set out by the Education Bureau.
“I think this is a prudent measure to prevent the spread of infections into the schools once school commences,” Chuang said.
Local media reported earlier on Monday that the education authority would require all teachers and students to take rapid tests for two consecutive days before in-person teaching starts on Thursday.
Meanwhile, any visitors – including students’ parents – who were issued a red or amber code – meaning that they were Covid-positive or had just returned from overseas, respectively – would not be allowed to set foot on campuses. The colour code system was introduced in mid-August to restrict the movement of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 or are international arrivals.
Hong Kong reported 8,488 new infections on Monday. Among the newly reported cases, 206 were students and teachers from 114 schools, according to Chuang.
Classes at one kindergarten have been suspended for a week after 14 students and five staff members were infected with Covid-19, while certain classes at seven other schools were also halted for seven days.
Last Saturday, education secretary Choi Yuk-lin warned that secondary schools might suspend full-day in-person teaching if cases exceed 10,000, as they are expected to.
Due to an increase in daily reported cases, Chuang said the health authorities would no longer confirm all self-reported positive rapid tests result with a nucleic acid test. A random proportion would be followed up, instead, Chuang said.
New dominant Omicron subvariant
Chuang also announced on Monday that the Omicron subvariant BA.5 had become the dominant strain of Covid-19 in Hong Kong, with suspected BA.5 cases accounting for 46 per cent of reported infections from last Monday to Sunday. The subvariant is more transmissible than the original Omicron strain.
The subvariant Omicron BA2.2, which was the dominant strain for much of the fifth wave, accounted for 41 per cent of new cases over the past week.
As of Monday, the city has reported a total of 1,522,460 Covid-19 cases and 9,668 related deaths.