The risk of students returning to in-person classes during a pandemic is obvious; less disciplined than adults, they need to be versed in the importance of good hygiene, properly supervised and taught in as safe an environment as possible. Any failing could lead to the disease spreading among peers and to teachers, parents and helpers. Hong Kong health minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung’s call for testing under the government’s free citywide screening scheme would seem a sensible idea, offering peace of mind for when physical lessons resume later this month. As good an idea as it is, though, it would have to be properly thought-out and implemented to ensure it offers genuine protection and does not infringe on rights. Online teaching has ensured education continues in the midst of uncertainty. But children often learn better in school, where they have direct contact with staff and the social and emotional benefits of being around other students. With Covid-19 seemingly back under control, it is good that final-year kindergarten children and students in the first, fifth and sixth years of primary and secondary school will return for half-day lessons from September 23 and the remaining age groups six days later. Initially, Covid-19 appeared to have minimal effects on children and they were not believed to easily spread it. Research is gradually changing that view, though. They often have milder symptoms, but similar to adults, those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and asthma are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms. A free testing programme makes sense. But parents should decide whether they want their children tested. The approach would have to be markedly different from the citywide scheme, where people lined up at community venues; special arrangements would have to be made for students, especially younger children. But with the pandemic still raging, schools need to ensure other protective and preventive measures are in place, such as daily checks of everyone for symptoms, social distancing in playgrounds and of desks in classrooms, mask-wearing and frequent cleaning of high-touch areas. Ideally, nurses should be on hand to manage illnesses. The full-time resumption of classes cannot be rushed.