Hong Kong’s schools have been advised to immediately suspend face-to-face teaching for one to two days while awaiting official confirmation in the event any staff or students preliminarily test positive for Covid-19.
The updated guidelines by the Education Bureau were issued on Friday, informing schools on how to handle any coronavirus-related situations, with face-to-face classes expected to resume in two phases on a half-day basis later this month. The Centre for Health Protection has advised schools to close for 14 days if they confirm any Covid-19 infections on campus.
Meanwhile, the fresh circular from the bureau offered specific suggestions for schools to follow should confirmed or preliminary cases emerge on campus during school hours.
It suggested that staff or students who had close contact with positive cases should be isolated immediately, while schools should disinfect classrooms and notify parents their children were being let off early.
“For safety reasons, the Education Bureau suggests that schools should suspend face-to-face teaching and activities for one to two days after seeking approval from the Incorporated Management Committee or School Management Committee,” the circular said.
In-school classes could only be resumed after the campus was thoroughly disinfected, it added, noting that schools must keep parents informed throughout the process.
Education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung announced on Monday that students entering Primary Five, Primary Six, Form Five and Form Six in the new academic year, as well as those starting primary or secondary school and their final year of kindergarten, would be the first back on campus starting on September 23.
They will be followed on September 29 by pupils from Form Two through Form Four, Primary Two through Primary Four, and kindergarten children in K1 and K2.
Kindergartens should arrange students to leave schools in batches to avoid gatherings of large numbers of parents at the exits of the school premises, according to the guidelines.
During class, students should keep at least one metre apart, and avoid sitting face to face. Schools should also arrange for them to use shared facilities, including washrooms and book corners, separately to minimise risks of infection.
Young students are advised to wear face masks and keep their distance not only in classrooms, but also when carrying out physical and musical activities. But schools should also consider “practical situations” to determine whether they must wear masks.
“If children do not wear masks while taking naps, kindergartens should ensure that they do not talk to each other with their masks off and keep a distance from others if possible,” the circular read.
The bureau urged schools to consult them on a case-by-case basis, while the Centre for Health Protection would offer specific advice when needed.
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