Parents relieved as Hong Kong schools return to full capacity for 1st time in more than 6 months

Chan Ho-him, South China Morning Post

Posted at May 24 2021 01:57 PM

Parents relieved as Hong Kong schools return to full capacity for 1st time in more than 6 months 1
Hong Kong pupils are back in school en masse following an easing of Covid-19 rules. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Parents spoke of their relief on Monday as Hong Kong schools and kindergartens returned to full capacity for the first time in more than six months under a relaxation of Covid-19 rules, with about 900,000 pupils welcomed back on campus for half days.

"I'm really happy. When I first heard the news about a full resumption I felt like 'finally we can return to school'," said Mable Wong, in her 40s, who has two children at a local primary school in Yau Ma Tei.

Another mother, Kelly Tam, said: "With a full capacity resumption, children can return to a relatively normal social life and can move around outside home.

"Parents have been under pressure too, having children at home for such a long time. Face-to-face learning is also a lot more efficient."

Under the latest relaxation of pandemic control measures, city schools are allowed to have all students back on campus at the same time - up from the previous two-third cap - regardless of whether teachers had undergone regular Covid-19 screening as previously required.

Temperature checks are required before entering school grounds, as well as mask wearing and social distancing in classrooms and during activities.

Officials maintained the half-day measure to avoid students eating together on school grounds at lunchtime.

Some parents agreed it was "not yet time" to resume full-day sessions given those infection risks, even with the Education Bureau affording international schools the opportunity to apply to do so.

The French International School and the English Schools Foundation's Discovery College are among those granted approval to resume full-day in-person sessions from Monday.

Some local head teachers called the policy unfair, after officials offered the rules exemption to international schools based on their facilities being more suitable for social distancing.

At Yaumati Catholic Primary School (Hoi Wang Road), about 950 students returned on Monday, many accompanied by their parents.

The co-educational school had been arranging for students from each year to return for two to three weeks per month under the previous set-up, but could now bring all its pupils every week.

Principal Polly Chan Shuk-yee said the school had placed sanitiser dispensers across the campus and was reminding pupils to keep their distance from each other.

Earlier, a leading health expert and government adviser suggested allowing full-day sessions - or even a relaxation of mask-wearing rules - in schools at which 70 or 80 per cent of eligible pupils were inoculated, if vaccinations were offered to younger people.

The government has been looking at expanding the mass vaccination programme to those aged 12 to 15.

But some parents remained hesitant towards vaccination, saying they preferred not to let their children take "extra risks" given the perceived uncertainties of the possible side effects.

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