15th March 2023 – (Hong Kong) Starting 16th March, kindergarten, primary, and special school students will not have to take daily rapid antigen tests (RATs) before they enter school campuses. With the end of this requirement – which first began in April 2022 and applied to all children in Hong Kong when they resumed in-person classes – there will no longer be any Covid-specific measures on school premises.
According to the Education Bureau, children who test positive for the virus and are asymptomatic can attend school, but should wear masks. In addition, students, staff members and visitors no longer have to record their temperatures before entering school premises. Schools will now refer to general guidelines to prevent and handle infectious diseases when dealing with COVID-19 and upper respiratory diseases.
Authorities ended several anti-epidemic measures at the end of last year, most notably vaccine mandates for teachers and visitors to schools in December 2022, and for students to take part in extracurricular activities from 1st February this year.
Since then, the Education Bureau has scrapped the daily RAT requirement for secondary school students and the Hong Kong government has dropped its mask-wearing mandate from 1st March. The Education Bureau also clarified that anyone who enters school premises no longer has to wear a mask.
This return to normal life on campus is welcomed by both parents and teachers, says Justin Raby, Center Coordinator at Tutor Time, an international nursery and kindergarten in Hong Kong. “There has not been any comment about the discontinuation of the daily RAT or the mask mandate as of now from our families. However, regardless if they have taken their masks off or not, all have mentioned it is great to see their teachers’ faces now and be able to have a better experience for language development.” he says, adding, “Overall our parents did not have much to comment on this area, as we know it’s the government policy and requirement. Of course, for the younger students, at first this was not something they were initially excited about, however, they did appreciate the value in what the policy was trying to do to prevent spread of Covid at that very sensitive time. We did not have any problems in our campus with everyone complying to all policies meant to keep us safe.”
Tutor Time will continue to maintain its strict hygiene protocols, which include three daily rounds of deep sterilisation, surface sterilisation and floor-cleaning of all classes between each session, daily cleaning of all toys and soft pieces, and regular carpet-steaming.
The school also screens staff and student temperatures every day as a precautionary measure. “We still require our staff to take their temperature when they arrive at school and prevent staff with fever from entering. The same is true for our students as we have infrared thermometers at the entrance scanning each person who enters the school, and a second one over our shoe cubby,” says Justin Raby.
However, not all of the government’s relaxed measures will apply to students sitting this year’s Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination exams, which begin on April 21. While candidates do not need to undergo pre-exam Covid tests, they must still check their temperatures before each exam. They must also wear masks during written and speaking exams.