All kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong are to close down early for the summer starting on Monday, amid a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong, and authorities will also review whether the coming school year can start as scheduled in August or September.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung told reporters on Friday that schools also can elect to go ahead with scheduled tests next week, or, they can choose to delay them for several months.
Primary five students, for example, are scheduled to take key internal assessment exams over the coming week that will have a large impact on their admission to secondary schools.
Schools, can either go ahead with the tests, or delay them to September and submit the results to the authorities later, Yeung said.
Students in secondary three to five can also take their scheduled exams as well.
The education chief said the risk of infection is low in an exam setting, since there isn't much interaction between students.
Schools that aren't adequately prepared for an early summer break can allow students to go back to campus in batches to complete any necessary tasks, he added.
Yeung also said even though some students and parents have come down with the disease over the past few days, there have not been a single case where the virus has been passed on at school.
This, he said, demonstrates the efficacy of the anti-epidemic measures taken by local schools since the resumption of classes in early May.
He stressed that the authorities are not signalling that there is a large risk of infection at schools, they think it's better for society if fewer students are taking public transport or roaming around.
There will be a "positive impact" on the government's anti-epidemic efforts, and the move can put parent's minds at ease, Yeung said.
He also stressed that measures such as social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing, and the strict monitoring of temperatures at schools have been effective in safeguarding students’ health.
However, he said authorities decided on an early summer break after liaising with schools, who relayed a high level of concern from parents.
Some have told RTHK they had already decided not to send their children to school even before the announcement.
The minister said the early break won't have much of an impact on students, and the authorities have balanced students' safety with their educational needs.
“It’s now very close to the planned summer vacation anyway – we are talking about seven to ten days – so we think that for the general good of the community as well as for the health of the students, we think that we can advance the commencement of the summer vacation to next Monday", Yeung said.
He added that schools should not organise any summer activities during the break, though they are free to decide whether important events such as graduation ceremonies or banquets can go ahead – so long as they take steps to ensure such events are safe.
Students who have taken their Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams would also be allowed to go back to campus as scheduled on July 22.
Last updated: 2020-07-10 HKT 14:33