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Schools to resume classes from March 31 (with photo and video)

    The Education Bureau (EDB) announced today (March 26) that kindergartens, kindergartens/child care centres, primary schools and special schools would resume classes starting from next Monday (March 31) or the first school day after their prearranged Easter break, whichever is later.

    Today's announcement followed discussions with the Food and Health Bureau on the latest development in the spread of influenza.

    At a press conference today, Secretary for Education Mr Michael Suen said, "During a meeting yesterday, the concerned government departments reviewed the recent influenza figures, and agreed that the number of influenza outbreaks had dropped during the Easter holidays and was at a level comparable to that in previous peak seasons. The Centre for Health Protection and some virologists had not found any genetic changes of the influenza virus."

    "Based on these considerations, we made the decision to resume classes. But we should not be lax about the preventive measures against influenza," Mr Suen said.

    The Controller of the Centre for Health Protection, Dr Thomas Tsang, said Hong Kong was currently still within the traditional influenza season, which was expected to last for some time. He said advancing the schools' Easter holiday to March 13 had been effective in halting circulation of influenza among students, and all schools were thoroughly cleansed during this school break.

    "CHP will closely monitor the influenza situation in Hong Kong.  It would not be unexpected for some schools to report influenza outbreaks to the CHP after classes resume next week, as the influenza season has not passed. If all sectors of the community are on high alert and strictly adopt all the preventive measures, the chance of large flu outbreaks occurring on school premises can be effectively reduced," Dr Tsang said.

    On arrangements for class resumption, Mr Suen said: "EDB will today issue a letter to each school on the arrangements for class resumption, attaching guidelines issued by the Centre for Health Protection on the prevention of the spread of influenza in schools. A letter will also be sent to parents through our schools appealing to them to pay attention to the health condition of their children, and to remind their children to observe good personal and environmental hygiene."

    When an increase of absentees suffering from the same infectious disease and with similar symptoms or an unusual absenteeism pattern is noticed after the resumption of classes (where three or more students in the same class develop similar symptoms in succession within a short time), schools should report it to the Central Notification Office of the Department of Health for epidemiological investigation and outbreak control, and copied to EDB.

    "If influenza outbreaks are detected in individual schools, we will assess the situation with the Department of Health to determine whether those schools should suspend classes.  Relevant factors for consideration could be the number of students in the school with influenza symptoms, whether there are more than 1% of students in the school admitted to hospitals due to influenza illness, or whether there are cases of serious influenza-related complications requiring admission to the Intensive Care Unit in hospital," Mr Suen said.

    As regards to future class suspension arrangements, EDB would, in collaboration with the Department of Health, assess the overall situation in Hong Kong, including whether individual districts had a cluster of serious influenza cases and the situation in Hong Kong's neighbouring regions. 

    Mr Suen said: "We will ensure that parents and schools are given adequate prior notice to make preparation for class suspensions."

    "Student health is always our prime concern. I would like to appeal to parents for co-operation in ensuring the health of our students. Make sure that your children have enough rest at home if they fall sick. Don't let them go to school until they have recovered."

    Mr Suen reminded parents that they should check the body temperature, record the reading and sign the temperature chart before sending their children to school, and not to send children to school if they had symptoms of influenza. If they had fever, the children should be kept at home until symptoms have gone and fever has subsided for at least two days.

    Parents are also reminded to inform the school immediately if their children are sick or have been admitted to hospital, and if their children fall sick at classes, they should be picked up from school for medical care immediately.

    The EDB also urges schools to :

*  adopt hygiene and influenza prevention measures before classes resume, including ensuring a clean and disinfected school environment and providing clear information to staff and parents.

*  after class resumption, schools should continue to adopt hygiene and influenza prevention measures.  These include maintaining environmental hygiene, ensuring good ventilation in classes, observing health condition of students and staff recovering from influenza, keeping sick leave records of staff and students, and taking care of sick students in school.

*ƒåas regards to the examinations, tests or activities originally scheduled to be held during advanced Easter holidays, schools should make appropriate arrangements.  If students are absent from schools due to sickness, schools should provide learning support for them so that their learning progress would not be affected.

*Čdeploy dedicated staff or form a crisis management team to co-ordinate or supervise matters relating to the hygienic condition of school environment and to brief staff and students on the knowledge of influenza, and advise parents to take influenza prevention measures.

Ends/Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Issued at HKT 18:11


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