All students and teachers will be required to take daily rapid Covid-19 tests before school, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Monday, as Hong Kong is set to resume in-person teaching on April 19.
Primary schools will be the first to resume face-to-face classes on April 19, after the Easter break. Secondary schools can return to in-person teaching from May 3, with the whole school returning to campus by May 10.
Classes will be conducted on a half-day basis unless 90 per cent of the student population has received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, in which case full-day teaching can be resumed. All staff members have to be fully vaccinated.
The resumption of in-person classes at kindergartens will happen in three phases, with one-third of students returning from May 3, two-thirds of students from May 10, and all students attending in-person classes from May 16.
Pupils and teachers will only be allowed to go in if their rapid antigen tests return negative results. The government will provide 10 million kits to schools for students in need.
Unvaccinated students will not be allowed to take part in extra-curricular activities due to infection risks.
“This is to protect students who are unvaccinated, because if they are unvaccinated but are together with those who are vaccinated, but one can still get infected and transmit [the virus] even if they are vaccinated…,” said Lam.
In-person teaching at all kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools has been suspended since February, when the city was battling a rising fifth wave of infections.
Schools were told to take an “early summer holiday” as the government planned to use campuses as vaccination and testing centres during compulsory universal testing, which has since been suspended.
Hong Kong has reported 1,190,183 Covid-19 infections and 8,770 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago.
Centre for Health Protection investigation
Director of Health Ronald Lam said that schools could be investigated by the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) according to three criteria if there is an outbreak of Covid-19 infections on campus.
An investigation will be triggered if five per cent or more of students and teachers test positive for Covid-19 at a school, if a certain classroom or event has 10 per cent or more people testing positive, or when there is a serious case or death.
Ronald Lam said that the criteria were based on CHP guidelines for dealing with influenza, but also took into consideration the higher transmission rate and greater impact of Covid-19.