Hong Kong schools to reopen with daily Covid-19 testing for students

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Shuttered since mid-January, Hong Kong’s schools are set to reopen after the Easter holiday as the city emerges from its worst coronavirus wave that took more than 8,600 lives.

Students and staff will need to submit to daily Covid-19 testing to comply with new rules.

Public primary schools can resume in-person classes starting fromĀ April 19, while secondary schools can hold half-day sessions from May 3, according to the government.

International and private schools have been given flexibility to reopen any time from April 19, with some set to start the following week after a pre-scheduled Easter break.

Hong Kong is one of the few developed economies to have imposed shutdowns of educational institutions to battle virus flare-ups, while most of the rest of the world has relaxed such curbs.

With at least four school closures in Hong Kong during the pandemic, the disruption to learning has been a fraught issue for irate parents, some of whom have chosen to move out of the city.

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said in a memo on Monday (April 11) that pupils and staff will be required to take rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 each day before coming to school.

Positive cases need to be reported to the health department, it said.

While the need for daily testing is rare, many schools around the world do mandate regular testing. For instance, Los Angeles requires weekly checks for all students and employees, regardless of their vaccination status.

Many parents in Hong Kong expressed relief with the scheduled resumption of in-person instruction.

“I’m willing to do anything to help them get back to school,” said Ms Jen Yuan, whose daughter is enrolled at a kindergarten run by the English Schools Foundation. “It’s very tough for kids this young to do online school. The quality of learning is always much better in the classroom.”

There are about 900,000 students in the Asian financial hub, spread across government and private schools that receive subsidies, to well-funded international campuses where mostly expatriate parents pay more than US$30,000 (S$41,000) in annual fees. The city’s more than 50 international schools enrolled about 41,000 students in the 2020-2021 school year.

While local schools with different divisions are likely to stagger their reopening, many international schools with bigger campuses will be resuming classes in all divisions on April 19.

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