Hong Kong’s schools and kindergartens will close from Monday after dozens of infections were identified in a “third wave” of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Education Secretary Kevin Yeung said on Friday the start of their summer holiday could be brought forward in view of the growth of confirmed cases over the previous two days.
Schools can decide to go ahead with scheduled tests next week or delay them for several months, Yeung said. For example, primary five students are due to take internal assessment exams over the coming week that will have a large impact on their admission to secondary schools.
Yeung said the risk of infection is low in an exam setting because there isn’t much interaction between students.
Due to this decision, many students will begin their summer holidays a week early. However, they will have to stay at home as most of their summer activities and tutorial classes will be canceled.
David Hui Shu-, chairman of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at University of Hong Kong, said it would be best to cancel this year’s book fair, which runs from July 15 to 21, to prevent the spread of the virus
If the government decides to go ahead as scheduled, the number of visitors must be controlled and everyone must be required to wear masks, Hui said.
The government should also consider re-implementing some of the epidemic prevention measures introduced during the peak of the second wave in March because a number of recently confirmed local Covid-19 cases have an unknown source, Hui said.
Between late January and early May, the government allowed civil servants to work from home or take shifts to maintain services. As of Friday, the government has not yet made such a decision.
As of on Friday, the Centre for Health Protection said 32 local infections and eight imported cases were newly recorded. Ten local cases were founded to be linked to two “cha ,” or Hong Kong-style cafes. It was believed that taxi drivers had spread the virus between the two restaurants.
Elizabeth Quat, a lawmaker of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the government should consider giving all people in Hong Kong a coronavirus test and seek the help of mainland medics for this. She said millions were tested in Wuhan city, where the first mass outbreak was first detected.
Secretary for Health Sophia Chan said on Friday that the government has done more than 7,500 tests every day recently, which is a target recommended by health experts. It is looking at ways to expand the capacity.
Bottles would be distributed to all taxi drivers to collect saliva samples for tests after several more drivers were confirmed to have Covid-19 in the past few days, she said.
To Sang-tang, the Kowloon branch head of the Motor Transport Workers General Union, told an RTHK radio program that some taxi drivers have probably been a bit lax by removing face masks to talk to passengers. He said that business has been reduced by about 20 percent since the taxi driver cluster emerged in the last couple of days.
Chuang, of the Centre for Health Protection, said it would hard to do widespread testing among seven million people in Hong Kong at the same time.