A designated centre for Covid-positive candidates sitting Hong Kong’s university entrance exams will be set up in Kowloon, authorities have said, while defending a requirement for all students to wear masks despite the lifting of the mandate.
Secretary General of the Hong Kong Examination Assessment Authority Wei Xiangdong on Thursday said the former campus of Cognitio College (Kowloon), located in San Po Kong, would be turned into a centre for takers of the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams who tested positive for the virus.
Wei also defended the requirement for all candidates to wear masks despite the lifting of the mandate, saying the test results would have a great impact on students’ future prospects and that the measure was adopted after discussions with the school sector.
Ricardo Mak King-sang, director of public examinations, said the location of the centre was easy to access.
“It’s convenient for candidates to go there if they make the decision to go there earlier that day,” he said.
Personnel who had worked at last year’s designated centre would be invited to serve as invigilators again at the new one, he added.
Mak said only pupils who had a fever were required to take a rapid antigen test before sitting the exams, unlike last year when it was mandatory for all candidates.
But he noted all candidates would still be required to check their body temperature and sign a health declaration form before going to the exam centre, and also use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
Feverish students who tested negative for Covid-19 should take a photo of their test results for record, the authority said, as they might be asked to show it to staff if their temperature was found to be abnormal at the centre.
Covid-positive candidates who decided to sit the exam should call the public examinations information centre to make a request by 7.30am on the day of the test before heading there.
Pupils who returned a positive result for the virus could also choose not to sit the exam as those who could not take the test, due to medical reasons or special circumstances resulting from the pandemic, may be considered for an assessed subject result up to Level 5, under a seven-level grading scale.
The latest arrangement differs from last year’s when pupils with the virus had to be driven in designated taxis to an exam centre in Penny’s Bay on Lantau Island. The government’s Covid-19 isolation facilities have been closed following an improvement in the city’s pandemic situation.
Some flexible measures, such as delaying the starting time of the exams, might be adopted at authorities’ discretion if candidates arrived late, the director said.
Mak stressed that the centre could accommodate all candidates in need given the pandemic had subsided, but he stopped short of revealing its capacity.
The special centre set up at the Penny’s Bay isolation facility welcomed 44 candidates to sit exams last year.
Head of the Subsidised Secondary School Council Lee Yi-ying said ideally designated centres should also be set up in the New Territories and Hong Kong Island as the commute to San Po Kong could be long for some candidates living in certain areas.
But she conceded it was difficult for the exam authorities to secure such venues.
A total of 50,823 candidates have registered to sit the DSE this year – 759 more than in 2022. It marks the first increase after yearly declines since 2014, with more than 4,000 markers hired to grade students’ work.