HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Hong Kong Education Bureau announced on Friday the suspension of all schools starting Monday after a sharp rise in locally transmitted coronavirus cases fueled fears of a further spread of the community.
FILE PHOTO: Students attend to take the Diploma in Secondary Education (DSE) exams, after the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hong Kong, China, on April 24, 2020. Jerome Favre / Pool via REUTERS
Schools in Asia’s financial center have been mostly closed since January, and many of them have switched to online learning and conference call lessons. Many international schools are already on summer vacation.
Hong Kong reported 38 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, surpassing 42 on Thursday, but overall in line with a sharp increase that the city has seen in the past three days.
Authorities said 32 of the new cases were transmitted locally after the city reported imported cases for months.
The total number of cases since the end of January is now 1,404. Seven people have died.
Some of the recent cases involved students and parents, said Education Secretary Kevin Yeung.
“Many parents are concerned about the sudden growth in local transmission cases in recent days,” said Mimi Tsang, mother of Melony, a 12-year-old student.
However, early suspension occurs when the switch to online learning at home has frustrated teachers, parents, and students and has exacerbated the learning gap between those who have and those who do not.
More than two-thirds of parents, regardless of income, believe their children have difficulty learning at home, according to a survey conducted in February by the Hong Kong University of Education.
A survey by the Society for Community Organization (SoCO) of nearly 600 low-income students shows that more than 70% do not have computers and 28% do not have broadband.
Closing schools early this time would not have much of an impact on teaching, students and parents said, as it occurs just before summer break.
“We only had one more week of school, so I don’t think there is much of a difference,” said student Ryan Chan, 14.
Additional reports from Joyce Zhou, Carol Mang, Donny Kwok and Clare Jim; Written by Farah Master; Shri Navaratnam Edition, William Maclean Edition