Hong Kong students, teachers to do daily rapid Covid tests when schools reopen, as pupils discuss scheme’s usefulness

  • The city’s chief executive has said those who test positive must report their results to their schools and the Centre for Health Protection
  • A primary school student notes the rapid antigen tests may not be timely enough in identifying infected pupils before they spread Covid-19 to others
Yanni Chow |

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Older secondary school students are expected to resume face-to-face classes on May 3, after the core subject assessments in the Diploma of Secondary Education exams. Photo: May Tse

Hong Kong students and teachers will be required to undergo daily rapid coronavirus tests when face-to-face classes gradually resume starting next week, the city’s leader has said.

On Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her daily epidemic press conference that those who tested positive must immediately report their results to their schools and the Centre for Health Protection.

With 10 million screening kits to be provided to schools for free, this would be enough to see schools through the coming month, and would be distributed to students in need, Lam added, noting there were currently more than 300,000 pupils in the city receiving subsidies.

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“We will review later whether pupils and teaching staff still need to do daily rapid tests – and if we need to continue to do so, whether we need to increase the amount of free testing kits,” she said.

Annabel Cheung, a Form One student at St Paul’s Co-educational College, agreed with the arrangement.

“We don’t want to repeat what has happened before and cause another wave ... that’ll largely affect our life,” said the 12-year-old.

Students will have to undergo daily rapid Covid-19 tests when face-to-face classes resume. Photo: Nora Tam

However, some pupils said they thought the daily screening with rapid antigen tests (RAT) would not be useful.

Calissa Poon from Diocesan Girls’ Junior School said the arrangement might not be timely enough in identifying infected pupils, as some could be infected and contagious before testing positive on a rapid test.

“So it really boils down to the self-discipline of the student or parent to be very diligent in isolating the student when they begin [showing] symptoms,” the 10-year-old said.

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Cherry Chan, 12, agreed with her, saying students might not all be obedient in following the new protocol.

“Many students may get lazy and use the same result every day,” said the St Mary’s Canossian College student.

Director of Health Dr Ronald Lam Man-kin said pupils and school staff had two ways to report a positive Covid test result. One was through the government’s established online portal for reporting RAT results, while the other involved a new platform specifically set up for schools to report their tallies of positive and negative cases each morning.

Yeung said that if more than five per cent of teachers, staff and pupils at a school tested positive, the Department of Health would consider suspending face-to-face classes at that school.

The government has said it will provide 10 million screening kits to schools for free. Photo: Nora Tam

In-person classes are expected to resume on April 19 at the earliest, starting with higher primary school grades. Younger primary students are not expected to return to classrooms until May 3.

Older secondary school students, meanwhile, are also expected to resume face-to-face classes on May 3, after the core subject assessments in the Diploma of Secondary Education exams. Lower secondary school grades return on May 10.

The government announced last month that to resume full-day lessons in the classroom, 90 per cent of students in schools or classes were required to have at least two Covid-19 vaccine shots. Those that do not meet the vaccination threshold will still be allowed to resume in-person learning, but only for half the day.

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Because of the low inoculation rate for children aged three to 11, education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said on Monday that primary schools would only be able to hold half-day, in-person classes for now.

Calissa, a Primary Five student, thought face-to-face lessons for half the day were reasonable for primary school students, who would need more time during lunch breaks to follow social-distancing rules.

“Personally, I do not mind half-day classes, but the authorities should instruct schools to take down less useful subjects so that the teaching progress of main subjects will not be jeopardised,” she said.

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Lam also said unvaccinated pupils would not be allowed to take part in non-academic extracurricular lessons such as sports and music, for their protection.

Cherry, who is vaccinated against Covid-19 with two shots, said she thought this arrangement could encourage students to get inoculated.

“Allowing [pupils] to participate in activities after getting the vaccine also works as encouraging them to take the ... jabs, protecting their health,” she noted.

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