Children are seen at a primary school in Hong Kong. Photo: HK Govt

All kindergartens and primary schools will close from Thursday because of serious flu outbreaks, the Hong Kong government announced on Wednesday.

After an urgent meeting between officials from the Food and Health Bureau, Education Bureau and Labour and Welfare Bureau, the government decided that the Chinese New Year break for students in kindergartens and primary schools should start on Thursday, instead of next week.

Dr Wong Ka-hing, from the Center for Health Protection, outlined risks to the community – mainly children and elderly citizens – from winter flu outbreaks at a press conference on Wednesday.

He said that since the beginning of this year, there had been 194 serious cases involving adults and that 111 had died. Most were patients with chronic diseases.

There were also 12 serious cases involving children under 18 with a median age of five years. Most of these kids – 90% – had not received any vaccinations.

University of Hong Kong professor Yuen Kwok-yung said he was not sure the influenza outbreak had reached its peak but noted that children were more prone to the virus than adults this winter. Fearing that more children may die, the government decided to close schools for younger children in the hope that this would ease the spread of the virus.

Yung said schools in Shenzhen in China started their New Year holidays on January 28 and the number of influenza cases dropped significantly.

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, the secretary for education, said schools would remain open on Thursday so that parents who have problems taking care of their children – if they have to work – can still send their kids to school.

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