The Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) announced today (March 27) that all schools would suspend classes for nine days as from March 29 (Saturday) to prevent the spread of atypical pneumonia on school premises.
Speaking at a press conference, the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, said: "EMB and other departments concerned, after an assessment of the current situation, have decided that all kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, special schools and day courses of Vocational Training Council will suspend classes until April 6 (Sunday)."
"The decision we made today is based on the fact that more atypical pneumonia cases have been confirmed in our community. The Department of Health (DH) has also confirmed that the disease has signs of spreading in the community. Also, we are aware of parents' concern over the issue. To alleviate their anxiety, we have decided to suspend classes for nine days."
"A blanket suspension of classes will not reduce the chances of contracting the virus. You should have noticed that all of the infected students contracted the disease outside their schools or through contacts with either their relatives or other patients. All students should as far as possible stay home during the class suspension period. If they need to leave home, they should avoid going to crowded places so as not to get infected," he stressed.
"We understand that some working parents might need support for taking care of their children during class suspension. We suggest that school campuses remain open and maintain a certain degree of operation. Hence, schools should arrange their teaching staff to be on duty to take care of those students lacking home care."
"Schools must continue to observe the series of preventive measures against the disease we have announced earlier, including asking students and staff who have contacts with infected relatives or patients to stay away from schools for seven days so as to eradicate a possible source of infection at schools. We also ask schools to close for seven days once an infected case is confirmed, and to carry out effective disinfectant measures on a daily basis."
"We will closely monitor the development of the issue and will make further announcements some time next week should there be extension of the class suspension period," Professor Li added.
The class suspension period will be deducted from the 90 days in the School Holiday List to avoid any adverse effect caused to students' learning outcome.
EMB has set out detailed guidelines to remind schools of arrangements during class suspension and guidelines to parents. Major measures to be taken include:
* setting up an ad hoc team to deal with the issue
* arranging staff to be on duty to handle school affairs and parents' enquiries, and to take care of those pupils who are without a caretaker at home
* formulating precautionary measures to be taken during suspension of classes, such as cleansing and disinfection
* setting up an effective communication mechanism and a notification mechanism to report confirmed atypical pneumonia cases involving staff, students, their relatives or any person they have contacted so that contingency measures can be drawn up and EMB and DH be informed
* arranging learning materials for pupils during the vacation, such as supplementary exercise and reading resources
* drawing up guidelines for parents on the measures of preventing the spread of atypical pneumonia
* advising parents not to let their children go out without a cause and not to travel to high-risk places so as to avoid infection, but to take note of their learning progress and health condition at home
* informing parents of the arrangements for internal examinations, tests, activities due to suspension of classes
* ensuring that every precaution is taken and cleaning their premises on a daily basis for public examinations to be held as scheduled
* preparing for class resumption, such as cleaning and disinfecting their school premises
If schools need any support during the class suspension period, they can contact their respective Regional Education Offices. For enquiries, members of the public can call the EMB Hotline 2892 2352.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority announced that the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) and Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) would be held at schools according to schedule. The examination timetable and centres would remain unchanged.
Precautionary measures will be taken at the schools. Unless teachers are medically unfit, they must report to the schools and carry out the invigilation duties for HKALE and HKCEE.
For enquiries, please call 2239 2765 (HKALE) or 2239 2752 (HKCEE).
End/Thursday, March 27, 2003