About 50 to 60 institutions suspend classes, but Arthur Li says cool heads are required to tackle the pneumonia outbreak Education Minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung insisted last night that he would not take the 'desperate measure' of shutting down all 2,100 schools and kindergartens amid a widening outbreak of the mystery pneumonia virus. Pressure mounted for a blanket closure of schools yesterday as 50 to 60 schools suspended classes voluntarily. Also yesterday, a kindergarten pupil aged six was confirmed to have become the eighth student to contract Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars). The government has so far only ordered six schools to be shut, for seven days, and 182 students whose family members have the virus to be suspended from classes. Professional Teachers' Union chairman Cheung Man-kwong yesterday urged the government to suspend classes at all Hong Kong schools. 'The parents are very panicky. If the numbers keep rising, more parents will let their children stay home,' he added. Scipio Wu Tim-chau, chairman of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations in Wong Tai Sin, said: 'If schools had been told to close a week ago, the virus would not have spread to so many.' Last night Dr Li said: 'We understand there is a very strong voice from parents and sectors of the community calling for the wholesale suspension of schools. 'For us to make the decision would have been very easy and would have won a lot of applause from the community, but we need to be logical, cool and tackle it sensibly.'' He said the reason they eventually decided not to suspend all classes was because the eight infected students had all contracted the virus outside of school. But he added the situation would be reviewed on a daily basis. 'The complete suspension of schools does not reduce the risk of contracting atypical pneumonia. Wholesale suspension cannot guarantee that students will not contract the disease,' Dr Li said. The latest case involved a six-year-old pupil at City One Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten in Sha Tin. The girl developed symptoms last Friday and was admitted to the Prince of Wales Hospital yesterday, where she was described as stable. Department of Health consultant Tse Lai-yin last night said the girl had consulted a private doctor on March 14. The doctor was earlier confirmed to have contracted Sars. 'We are still looking for the source of infection [for the girl],' she said. The number of Sars cases rose by 26 yesterday to 286. Four other suspected cases were in hospital, Deputy Director of Health Leung Pak-yin said. The confirmed cases include: Hospital Authority chief executive William Ho Shiu-wei, who was admitted on Sunday with fever and pneumonia. He was in good condition last night at Queen Mary Hospital. Nine members of a Hong Thai Travel tour group to Beijing who were admitted to hospital on March 22, three days after their return to Hong Kong. They are now believed to have caught the virus from a 73-year-old mainland passenger on an Air China flight on March 15. The man felt unwell after visiting his brother at the Prince of Wales Hospital earlier this month. The passenger was admitted to hospital a day after arriving in Beijing on March 16. Three people at a Ma On Shan housing estate were infected, in another sign that the virus was causing sporadic outbreaks in the community. Of the 265 in hospital, 41 are still in intensive care. Only 14 have been discharged. Dr Leung added that a diagnostic test for the disease was expected to be ready in a few days. 'We are using some clinical information and some exclusion data for diagnosis of Sars. But we do not have specific diagnostic tests [yet],'' he said. Dr Leung said Hong Kong University and the Department of Health's virus unit had detected the diseasein patients using an experimental quick test. The findings are being shared with Chinese University scientists who found another potential viral agent. Dr Leung said Hong Kong would not quarantine those infected or suspected to have been infected as in Singapore, which quarantined about 700 people under threat of a fine. 'Different countries have their own countermeasures according to their own culture and state of affairs. Hong Kong will take experience from other countries and see whether we should adopt them or not. But we think we are not going to do that,' he said.