A cold, harsh lesson in mediocrity

Editorial | Mary Ma 13 Nov 2020

The decision to shut down kindergartens and day-care centers for two weeks is doomed to become a classic case of intelligence reaching lower than mediocrity.

Children are being told not to return to these places of learning because of outbreaks of "upper respiratory tract infections" involving about 1,900 children across the city so far.

In ordinary language, they are being closed due to the common cold.

That's unbelievable - especially when great efforts are being made to keep schools open in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic that, according to scientists, poses the least danger to children. For very young kids, like those at kindergartens, the risk is reportedly negligible.

So it is absurd to close the kindergartens over fears that some of the common cold cases may also be Covid.

It's a joke that an outbreak of a seasonal illness is allowed to disrupt children's learning patterns so readily.

While Covid is scarier than the common cold, a few countries, including Britain, will start vaccinating citizens with the Pfizer vaccine from early December.

In the UK, people aged 50 and above and others with health conditions will be the first to get vaccinated.

Hopefully, as the Pfizer vaccine and others in the final stage of testing become available to more countries, the days of the global health crisis will be numbered.

With this in mind, it is overkill for our government to shut down kindergartens.

As the city moves on, it must be kept in mind that Hong Kong kids are no strangers to the common cold, and the government has maintained a standing vaccination program for the flu under the supervision of health secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee.

Without doubt, adults have to protect the children, whose safety must always be a top concern. But that is not to say that the children should be kept in a bubble and insulated from nature. This would only make them weak, not stronger.

Children need to be suitably exposed in order to gain immunity.

I hope that, when they ordered the suspension, Chan and her colleagues were not preoccupied with a policy priority to reopen a quarantine-free border with the mainland and Macau in light of Guangdong province's demand that Hong Kong achieves zero Covid cases locally.

The two-week kindergarten suspension will put many parents under considerable pressure. Having gone through the nightmare of school shutdowns both this year and last, they know how damaging those shutdowns have been to the children and their families.

Unlike older children, the younger ones are not able to learn online. To keep them from spending hours playing games, parents have to arrange outdoor activities for them to use up the boundless energy of their young monsters.

For the pro-government lawmakers, perhaps there's a silver lining to be found in this.

Right before them is an opportunity to play the role of their pro-democracy opposition peers to voice objection to the class closure now that the pan-democrats have left the legislature en masse.

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