Hong Kong has eased Covid-19 vaccination requirements for students, allowing primary schools to resume full-day face-to-face classes if at least 70 per cent of students have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, a requirement mandating the student body of secondary schools to be 90 per cent triple jabbed in order to continue face-to-face classes has been pushed to February, the Education Bureau said on Tuesday. It was originally meant to come into force in November.
Primary and secondary students who are not triple vaccinated will continue to be barred from taking part in extra-curricular activities, and a rule requiring all students to take daily rapid antigen tests before going to school will remain in place.
The Education Bureau reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19, especially with the influenza season approaching.
“Vaccination is the most effective way of protection and can reduce the risk of severe cases and fatalities,” the bureau wrote, adding that students are “one of the priority protection groups.”
Almost three years on since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Hong Kong still has stringent rules in place that have kept school life from returning to normal.
The relaxations announced on Tuesday mark the first time a roadmap has been provided for the resumption of full day face-to-face classes for primary schools. Currently, primary schools – and kindergartens – are only able to provide half-day face-to-face classes.
Education authorities earlier rejected calls from lawmakers to allow the resumption of classes for younger students, citing the low vaccination rate.
According to the government’s vaccine dashboard last updated on Tuesday, less than 30 per cent of the population aged three to 11 are triple jabbed against Covid-19, but almost 75 per cent of the age group have gotten two jabs.
Authorities also suggest seven-day suspensions on individual classes in schools if a “cluster outbreak” is detected, for example if 10 per cent of students in a class report test positive for Covid-19.
NGOs and teachers say the city’s strict Covid-19 rules have taken a toll on students’ academic progress, attributed to a lack of interaction with teachers and long hours of screen time.