Hong Kong schools to resume classes on schedule as flu crisis shows signs of easing
Food and health minister says the emergency measure to close schools has led to fewer cases of the illness
Classes will resume at Hong Kong schools according to original schedules for kindergarten and primary school pupils, the food and health minister said on Friday, as local paediatricians credited early closures for helping to mitigate a flu outbreak that killed scores of people.
Sophia Chan Siu-chee’s comments came more than a week after the government decided to shut the city’s 1,600 kindergartens, primary and special-needs schools from February 8, bringing forward their Lunar New Year holiday to stem the spread of the flu outbreak.
The festive break typically lasts about two weeks, but with exact days off varying among schools. Most schools were expected to resume classes on Monday, February 26.
The sudden announcement to close schools early left many parents upset about having to scramble to make alternative childcare arrangements.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Chan said the current plan was for classes to resume according to schools’ original schedules.
“I went to a hospital on Thursday to understand the situation and there were paediatricians telling me that after the implementation of the early school holiday measure, they immediately felt the number of admissions had reduced,” she said.
For this reason, the measure had been effective, Chan said.
The food and health minister added that the government would continue to monitor the admission numbers and flu situation.
According to official figures, from the start of the current winter influenza season on January 7 to February 14, 174 people have been killed, including two children, as a result of the flu out of 300 severe cases among all ages.
Chan also discussed the first human case of a virulent bird flu strain on mainland China, urging the public to avoid wet markets, maintain personal hygiene and avoid touching live poultry if they visit the mainland.
A 68-year-old woman in Jiangsu province was confirmed to have been infected with the H7N4 flu strain earlier this week after developing symptoms on December 25, last year.
The woman was admitted to hospital on January 1 and discharged on January 22.
She had contact with live poultry before she developed symptoms but no person in close contact with the woman had similar symptoms.
Mainland authorities did not say whether there was an outbreak of H7N4 among poultry.
Chan added the Centre for Health Protection would closely monitor all flu cases, including bird flu.