URTI surge sees Hong Kong primary schools return to Covid-style lockdown

  • A rise in common cold infections could make dealing with the coronavirus pandemic more difficult
  • Health Secretary Sophia Chan says 70-80 per cent of upper respiratory tract infections come from younger children
Kelly Fung |

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Primary school students will be studying online for two weeks. Photo: SCMP / Winson Wong

Junior primary students will not be going to school for 14 days starting on Monday, the government said on Friday. The city has seen a surge in infections of the common cold, and authorities worry it might make dealing with Covid-19 more difficult.

Junior classes, that is, for Primary One to Primary Three students, will be suspended for 14 days until December 6, as the health authority said 70-80 per cent of upper respiratory tract infections (common cold) come from junior primary school students.

“All primary schools and secondary schools may have to close again if the situation worsens,” said Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee.

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Chan said the government is very concerned about the upper respiratory tract infections and the fact that the number of infections has surged rapidly on campus. From November 15 to 5pm yesterday, the Centre for Health Protection recorded 439 cases of URTI, with 266 cases in primary schools.

Kindergartens and childcare centres will remain closed for two more weeks until December 6. They were closed on November 14 due to the common cold cases.

The pandemic situation in Hong Kong has “deteriorated quickly” with a surge in confirmed and preliminary cases, Chan said, which covered various clusters including a dance group, hotel staycation and taxi drivers across districts.

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She warned that the government would tighten social-distancing measures if the pandemic worsened.

Hong Kong recorded 26 confirmed and 40 preliminary Covid-19 cases on Friday, with 21 of the confirmed cases being local infections. This is the highest number of daily infections in the past three months, since August 22.

Yuen Kwok-yung, a top Hong Kong microbiologist, said “the fourth wave of Coronavirus has already started”, and the surge in local infections could be linked to the imported cases from Nepal.