Students get early break in March, April to free schools for city-wide COVID-19 testing

Screengrab of the Information Services Department’s video of a presser by Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam on new COVID-19 measures on Feb. 22, 2022.
Screengrab of the Information Services Department’s video of a presser by Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam on new COVID-19 measures on Feb. 22, 2022.

All kindergarten, primary, secondary and international school students will have their holidays earlier this year in March and April to free school sites for city-wide COVID-19 testing.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday evening, Chief Executive Carrie Lam introduced a slew of new coronavirus measures as cases and deaths remain high in Hong Kong.

Lam said that schools will break for holidays four months earlier, instead of the usual July and August, so the sites can be used for COVID-19 testing, isolation and vaccination.

“After the pandemic eases in two to three months’ time, students can return to school healthily,” she said.

The city’s leader said the vacation will begin in early March and end some time after the Easter holiday.

Schools have switched to online teaching since mid-January.

The new measure does not apply to universities and tertiary institutions.

As for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination, one of the city’s main college entry exams, Lam said authorities are still working and targeting to have it start on April 22, 2022 as scheduled.

But she said that it will still depend on the coronavirus situation at that time.

Lam also gave some updates on the previously announced compulsory universal testing programme.

She said it will be required by law for the over 7 million people in Hong Kong to undergo three rounds of testing in March.

It will also be done in groups according to people’s birth year and Hong Kong identity card number.

Authorities will hand out enough rapid antigen test kits for people to do daily checks at home and masks with higher levels of protection, such as the KN95, in between the rounds of testing.

But Lam said she will not implement a city-wide lockdown.

“At the moment, we have no plans to disallow people to leave their home because that would be very difficult to implement because a large number of people have to go out to work, especially in relation to the anti-epidemic work,” she said.

To accompany the testing programme, she said authorities will ramp up isolation facilities, which are currently hugely insufficient, in the coming weeks and months.

Besides renting rooms from hotels, they will also build more facilities in Penny’s Bay and Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.

Lam added the government has identified five more plots of land, including both government land and land offered by private developers, to increase the isolation facilities.

In total, these isolation rooms should increase by tens of thousands in the next months.

The chief executive also said that current social distancing measures, including the evening dine-in ban and closure of certain venues, will be extended to April 20, 2022.

Earlier in the day, the city reported 6,211 new COVID-19 cases. All but three are local infections.

A total of 39 more deaths were recorded, including 32 in the past 24 hours, and seven, which had not been reported from a day before. The ages of the patients range from 45 to 103.

The Hospital Authority said 145 COVID-19 patients have died in public hospitals in the fifth wave.

The authority added that as of today, 873 of its staff have been infected with the virus.

The Centre for Health Protection noted that there are currently more than 300 homes for elderly or the disabled that have at least one COVID-19 case.

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