Coronavirus: HK schools should only reopen if there are no locally transmitted Covid-19 cases for 28 days, government advisor says

South China Morning Post

Meanwhile, education sector calls for mask manufacturers to dedicate a portion of their output to smaller masks for children

South China Morning Post |

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Schools in Hong Kong should only reopen if there are no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 28 days.

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Hong Kong schools should only reopen if there are no locally transmitted coronavirus infections in the city for four weeks, says a leading medical expert and government adviser.

Chinese University respiratory medicine expert Professor David Hui Shu-cheong on Wednesday said universities and secondary schools could reopen first if no locally transmitted infections were recorded for four weeks, followed by primary schools and kindergartens after another two weeks, since younger children were more prone to close contact with each other.

“Normally it’s best to have two incubation periods, meaning 28 days [without cases]. Then the situation will be under control, and containment measures can be gradually relaxed,” Hui, who sits on a Covid-19 government advisory panel reporting directly to the city’s leader, told a radio programme.

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The city’s education sector, meanwhile, said mask procurement for students remained difficult, and called on publicly subsidised manufacturers to dedicate a portion of their production to smaller ones for children.

Hong Kong has introduced many containment measures, including class suspensions, to combat the Covid-19 disease, which has so far infected 126 people locally and killed three.

The Education Bureau last month extended the suspension of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools – in force since February 3 – until April 20 at the earliest.

Cheung Yung-pong, honorary chairman of the Aided Primary School Heads Association, later told the same radio programme that schools were not equipped to reopen because of the ongoing mask shortage, especially those for children. Cheung said a supplier told him children’s masks would only be available by the summer.

He said the government should require local manufacturers to produce a certain number of child masks as a condition of the HK$1.5 billion subsidy scheme earmarked for them under a HK$30 billion epidemic stimulus package announced last month.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said it was possible to reopen schools on schedule, but weighed in on a row surrounding 500,000 masks procured by the Government Logistics Department for students sitting the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) public examination.
He told listeners that he had received complaints that the masks were “very thin” and stained, questioning whether they had expired.

The department said the masks were from two batches, one made on the mainland and due to expire in August 2023, and another produced in Russia with an expiry date of December 2024. The Education Bureau said it had not received any complaints from schools.

Separately, Hong Kong’s Joint University Programmes Admissions System (Jupas) announced on Wednesday that the release of offers for school places would be postponed for a week until August 10, following an earlier one-week deferral of the release of HKDSE results until July 15.