Candidates sitting Hong Kong’s official university entry exams must “properly” wear a surgical mask during all examinations, including speaking assessments, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) has said.

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Students wearing face masks. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The HKEAA announced the mask wearing requirement on Wednesday as part of its “contingency and precautionary measures” for the 2023 Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE), a week after the city scrapped its long-standing Covid-19 mask mandate.

The examination authority said the measures were made “in consultation with the Centre for Health Protection” and would “ensure the health and well-being” of candidates and examination staff.

The HKEAA wrote that candidates must put on a surgical mask properly – fully covering their nose, mouth and chin – before entering an exam venue.

Candidates would be required to keep wearing their masks during all written and spoken exams. “Those who refuse to put on a surgical mask will be regarded as having breached the examination regulations,” the HKEAA said.

If the candidates wish to drink during an exam, the HKEAA said they could only do so outside the examination room under the supervision of an invigilator.

According to the 2023 HKDSE regulations, candidates breaking the authority’s instructions could be disqualified from part or all of the exams, or risk their marks being downgraded, without a refund of exam fees.

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Students sitting apart as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus during the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) Exam. File photo: May James/HKFP.

The exam authority added that candidates should wear their masks and “maintain an appropriate social distance” during breaks as well.

Other precautionary measures

Additionally, candidates must also produce a completed health declaration form, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser, and undergo body temperature checks as they enter exams.

Unlike last year, when candidates were asked to take daily Covid-19 rapid antigen tests (RAT) before arriving, they will only be asked to take them if they feel unwell or have a temperature at 38 degrees Celsius or higher.

If candidates are found to have a fever during temperature screenings, they will be asked to provide a photo of a negative RAT result taken on that day together with their exam admission form.

Meanwhile, candidates who returned a positive test result would be required to leave the exam venue and consult a doctor as soon as possible, the HKEAA wrote.

HKEAA Wei Xiang-don Choy Siu-kwan Ricardo Mak Margaret Hui DSE
HKEAA meeting the press on July 19, 2022. File photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Those candidates could choose to sit written assessments in a designated centre if they contacted the examination authority immediately.

As for oral exams, the HKEAA said candidates could apply to reschedule within three working days of the original assessment date, and any extra fees would be waived if they could provide valid medical proof.

The 2023 HKDSE will mark the return of English speaking tests after they were cancelled for three years in a row because of the pandemic. It also marks the first year that Chinese oral exams have officially been axed from the curricular.

English oral tests are set to start on March 21 and written exams will kick off on April 21.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.