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HK schools to remain closed until Apr 20; parents express concern

26 February 2020

By The SUN


HK's 85th case is a 60-year-old member of the HK Jockey Club (HKJC photo)
Hong Kong has announced that schools will remain closed until after the Easter holiday, as five more confirmed cases of coronavirus or Covid-19 infection were reported today, Feb. 25, bringing the total number to 85.

The latest confirmed case was a 60-year-old member of the exclusive Hong Kong Jockey Club, who was seen by five private doctors before testing positive.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said that classes at all kindergartens and primary and secondary schools would be suspended until April 20 at the earliest. The earlier plan was to reopen schools from Mar 16.

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But he said written tests for university entrance exams (DSE) which some 50,000 students are expected to take, will go ahead as planned from March 27.

A students' group has opposed the decision, citing a poll it conducted among 11,000 students that showed an overwhelming majority wanted the exam postponed by at least a month because of fear of contamination. A third also cited their school’s lack of preparation.
 
The Secondary School Students Strike Platform wants the DSE exams suspended for a month
Parents have expressed mixed reactions to the extension of the class suspension. While many worry that their kids could catch the virus in a classroom setting, others think the government is overreacting, citing the low infection rate among children.

“As we are finding out more and more about the disease, we are finding out how few children are infected…Yes, we must be careful and take precautions, but we shouldn’t overreact either, and jeopardize children’s education and well-being,” said a concerned Filipino mother in an online chat group.

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“Decisions have to be based on calculated risks and tradeoffs, and not purely out of fear or political aversion to being blamed. Singapore has not suspended a single day of school but just canceled large school gatherings. I don’t think they care less about their children.”

Other parents say the online teaching system is taking a toll on them and their children.

“My husband and I work fulltime and my son gets homework everyday from five or more different teachers. It’s one thing to do assignments with them, it’s another  thing to first teach them the concepts, and then do the assignments. I’m sorry but not everyone can teach- it’s a skill,” said another Filipina mother married to a French national.

“We get to teach our son when we get home in the evenings – us tired from work and our son also by that time already sleepy. This results to a stressful teaching and learning environment and strains our relationship so it defeats the whole purpose of them learning at home.”
Yeung said that when classes do resume, they will do so in phases. But he said that since schools had been holding online classes, summer holidays would in principle not be shortened, but individual schools could arrange for some students to make up classes if needed.

Four more infections were confirmed today, with the latest being a 60-year-old member of the Jockey Club who lives in Tai Hang. She was seen by a private doctor five times before she was taken to the private Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital in Happy Valley.

After she tested positive for the virus, the woman was taken to Queen Mary Hospital in Pokfulam where she is now in isolation.

Parts of the Happy Valley Clubhouse which she had visited during the incubation period, including the food plaza, gym, swimming pool and changing rooms, have been closed, with employees working on those days put on self-isolation for two weeks.

Three other infections were confirmed earlier – a 33-year-old employee of the MTR and a mother and son linked to a Buddhist hall in North Point where there have been several infections.

The MTR employee is the son of the city’s 72nd case, a 62-year-old man. He worked at Mong Kok East station as an attendant, and had been absent from work since February 21. He is being treated at United Christian Hospital.

The other two, the 83rd and 84th cases, are a 55-year-old woman who had visited the Fook Wai Ching She worship hall in North Point and her son, 24. Both have been admitted to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai.


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