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Education Bureau announces continuation of daily rapid antigen test arrangements for schools
     The Education Bureau (EDB) today (June 17) announced that the daily COVID-19 rapid antigen test (RAT) arrangements will continue until the end of this school year (i.e. 2021/22 school year) in order to reduce the risk of viral transmission on school campuses.

     A spokesman for the EDB said, "To ensure the safety and health of students, the EDB has earlier required all teachers, school staff and students to complete an RAT every school day and obtain a negative test result before returning to school for work or lessons. Taking note of the implementation situation of the measure since the resumption of face-to-face classes and the number of cases reported by schools to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), it is shown the measure has effectively helped early identification of infected cases of teachers, school staff and students, with a view to putting them under isolation and treating them as soon as possible. The measure has significantly reduced the risk of large-scale spread of the virus in schools.

     "The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases of students, teachers and school staff has had a significant increasing trend since early this month. The EDB, after seeking advice from the CHP, decided to maintain the daily RAT arrangements until the end of this school year (i.e. 2021/22 school year). The EDB will continue to distribute RAT kits to students with financial needs through schools."

     The spokesman for the EDB reminded, "As the epidemic situation shows signs of a rebound, schools must continue to strictly put in place various anti-epidemic measures stipulated in the 'Health Protection Measures for Schools' issued by the EDB and the 'Health Advice to Schools for the Prevention of COVID-19' issued by the CHP, as well as all other measures against the pandemic."

     The EDB in particular reminds schools not to arrange any non-essential meal gathering activities as mask-off activities will cause a higher risk of virus transmission. Schools should also remind teachers, school staff and students to refrain from attending meal-gathering activities in order to reduce the risk of infection. In addition, if schools have to organise on-campus half-day mass events such as speech days, parents' days, open days and campus visits, they should ensure participants will maintain adequate social distancing and strictly observe various anti-epidemic measures, including ensuring that the venues are well ventilated.   

     If a school organises a speech day, it must shorten the time of the ceremony as far as possible and reduce the number of performance activities. Participants should sit side by side facing one direction (to avoid face-to-face interactions). For primary and secondary schools, if performance activities are arranged, they should only allow students who have received two doses of vaccines for more than 14 days to participate in mask-off performance activities. As for students of kindergartens, they have comparatively lower self-care abilities and hence are not suitable for mask-off activities even if they are vaccinated.

     Meanwhile, parents should continue to take precautionary measures for COVID-19, pay attention to the health conditions of their children and arrange for them to complete an RAT every school day before returning to school. If children have tested positive, they should not return to school and should report this to the school immediately. Taking into account the increasing number of outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) reported recently and the symptoms of URTI being similar to that of COVID-19, if students have a fever or respiratory symptoms, they should not return to school regardless of their RAT results. If children feel unwell (even if the symptoms are very mild), they should seek medical advice promptly so as to receive appropriate diagnoses and treatments early.

     The spokesman reiterated that vaccination is the most effective way to protect against COVID-19 and it can prevent severe cases and reduce the risk of death. In view of the fact that the vaccination rate of younger students, especially those aged 3 to 11, still needs to be improved, the EDB strongly appeals to parents and schools to arrange vaccination for school-age students, especially younger ones, as early as possible to protect their lives. Vigorously increasing the vaccination rate will also help the campus to build a more effective protective barrier so that students can study with peace of mind.
Ends/Friday, June 17, 2022
Issued at HKT 19:50
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