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EDB calls on schools to prepare for new school year

     An Education Bureau (EDB) spokesman said today (July 20) that according to the latest assessment by the Department of Health (DH), although human swine influenza is a new virus and transmits easily through the population, it causes relatively mild disease.  Having considered the DH¡¦s advice, the EDB has determined that all kindergartens, kindergarten-cum-child care centres, special schools, primary and secondary schools (including private independent schools, international and ESF schools) can start the new school year (2009/10) as scheduled.

     The EDB spokesman said, "To safeguard teachers' and students' health, schools should get well-prepared before the commencement of the new school year by following the advice set out in the 'Guideline on Prevention of Human Swine Influenza for Commencement of the New School Year' issued by the Centre for Health Protection (CHP). They should thoroughly clean and disinfect their premises to secure a hygienic environment before the first school day and continue to stay alert and pay close attention to announcements by the DH regarding human swine influenza and take preventive measures in accordance with the relevant guidelines after class commencement.

     "To tie in with the prevention measures in the mitigation phase and provide support for schools in taking precautionary measures at the commencement of the new school year, the EDB will provide again an additional one-off grant of $3,000 to each school for purchasing equipment or necessities to reduce the spread of human swine influenza in schools and safeguard students¡¦ health", the spokesman said.

     After class commencement, if there is an influenza (including human swine influenza) outbreak in a school, the CHP will make suggestions to the affected school on whether class suspension is necessary with regard to individual circumstances. In general, when giving advice on class suspension, the CHP will refer to indicators including students' sick leave rate reaching 10% or above, the rate of hospitalisation of students surpassing 1%, admission of two or more students to the intensive care unit, or death of an otherwise healthy student in the school due to influenza. The general period for class suspension is seven days, but the CHP will consider other conditions, such as the number of students affected, severely ill and hospitalised during the class suspension period, the progression of the outbreak, etc, in advising whether an individual school should suspend its classes for an extended period.

     The spokesman added that there is no need to issue guidelines on territory-wide class suspension at this stage. However, the CHP will closely monitor the latest developments of human swine influenza and advise on whether a territory-wide class suspension is needed according to the actual epidemic situation. If necessary, the EDB will make an early announcement on the arrangements of territory-wide class suspension after consultation with the DH and relevant departments.

     Apart from providing an additional grant to schools, the EDB has also published the "Handbook on Prevention of Human Swine Influenza in Schools" to assist schools in formulating precautionary measures. The handbook has been uploaded onto the EDB homepage. The handbook will be revised with the latest information on human swine influenza developments.

     A letter will be issued to schools today on detailed arrangements in preparation for the new school year. The letter will also be uploaded onto the EDB homepage for easy reference.

     The spokesman said, "We will continue to work closely with the DH, disseminate the latest information and provide timely advice and guidelines to schools."

Ends/Monday, July 20, 2009
Issued at HKT 11:16


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