Over 200 schools set to resume classes

Local | Moon Lam 22 Feb 2021

Over 200 schools - mostly kindergartens and tutorial schools rather than primary and secondary schools - applied to fully resume face-to-face classes, Education Secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said.

Starting from today, schools will be allowed to resume half-day in-person classes for a third of students, while schools that agree to have all teachers tested for Covid-19 every two weeks may have all students return to class.

Yeung said on a radio program that among the 200 schools that applied for a full resumption, half are tutorial schools while the rest are mostly kindergartens.

There are 1,050 kindergartens, 534 primary schools and 472 secondary schools in the city.

He expects more primary and secondary schools to apply for a full resumption of in-person classes later, as schools were on holiday last week.

Yeung added that the Education Bureau does not intend to force all school teachers to get tested as a prequisite for class resumption.

But he still encouraged school staff to test for Covid-19, saying: "We hope they test voluntarily. It is also the way to protect teachers themselves and also their family and students."

"Schools could be safer if the teachers tested regularly. The government will also have more confidence in allowing students to go back to school afterward."

Different testing arrangements are in place for various schools - some are asking teachers to go test themselves, while others are helping teachers obtain testing kits. Some education groups have also opted to invite contractors to provide outreach testing services for their institutions, Yeung explained.

His bureau is still discussing with the Centre for Health Protection on plans to have sampling bottles stocked up at the bureau's office for collection by schools.

The bureau has no timetable for full class resumption yet as some parents are worried that there could be a new wave outbreaks after the Lunar New Year holiday, according to Yeung.

"If the situation of the pandemic improves, we will consider resuming more face-to-face classes. It depends on the development of the pandemic."

He said that the Education Bureau would assess the infection risk and determine other school activity resumptions.

Meanwhile, a research team from City University found that suspending schools is not as effective as social distancing measures in curbing the outbreak.

Zhang Qingpeng, assistant professor at the School of Data Science of City University, has studied the pandemic situation in New York and found that implementing social distancing measures lowered the number of infections by 47 percent and reduced over 51 percent of the deaths from Covid-19.

However, suspending classes only decreased the number of infections by 4 percent and had no impact on the number of deaths.



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