Over 200 schools applied to fully resume face-to-face classes, most of which being kindergartens and tutorial schools, not primary and secondary schools, Education Secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said.
Schools are allowed to resume half-day in-person classes for a third of their students, starting from tomorrow. For schools that can get all teachers tested for coronavirus
every two weeks, all students can return to campuses for classes.
Yeung said in a radio program that among the 200 schools which applied for a full resumption so far, half of them are tutorial schools. The remaining were mostly kindergartens.
There are 1,050 kindergartens in Hong Kong, and 534 primary schools and 472 secondary schools.
He expected more primary and secondary schools would apply for a full resumption of in-person classes later as it was school holiday last week.
Yeung added that the education bureau did not intend to force all the school staffers to get tested in order to resume in-person classes for all schools as infection risks remain.
But Yeung still encouraged the school staff to test Covid
-19 and said: “We hope they test it voluntarily. It is also the way to protect teachers themselves, also their family and students.”
“The school could be safer if the teachers tested regularly. The government also has more confidence in allowing students to go back to school afterwards.”
Different testing arrangements are in place for various schools. Some ask teachers to go test themselves, others help teachers to get testing kits. There are also some education groups which would invite contractors to provide outreach testing services for their schools, Yeung said.
His bureau is still discussing with the Centre for Health Protection, and plans to have sampling bottles stocked up at the bureau’s office for collection by schools.
Some parents were worried that there would be a new wave of coronavirus
outbreak after the Lunar New Year holiday, according to Yeung.
The bureau has no time table for full resumption yet.
“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 resumption.
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 School of Data Science of City University, has studied the pandemic in New York and found implementing social distancing measures can lower the number of infections by 47 percent, and reduce over 51 percent of the deaths from Covid
But suspending schools can only decrease the number of infections by 4 percent and has no impact on the number of deaths.