Face-to-face classes from Primary One to Primary Three to be suspended from 23rd Nov to 6th Dec, more than 30 preliminary cases reported today (Updated: 12.57pm)

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20th November 2020 – (Hong Kong) The outbreak of upper respiratory tract infection continues in schools, Dr.Sophia Chan, Secretary for Food and Health held a media conference at 12.30pm today.

She said that the epidemic situation in Hong Kong has deteriorated rapidly recently. Today, Hong Kong will announce 26 new confirmed cases, 21 of which are local cases. The patients involved multiple clusters erupted from dancing and staycation. Other patients were taxi drivers and housewives who lived in different districts. The authorities have just learned that there are more than 30 preliminary diagnoses today. She urged all people in Hong Kong to reduce unnecessary gatherings and be prepared for them. Many cases involve social gatherings and they do not wear masks. The fourth wave of the epidemic will be out of control soon.

Dr.Sophia Chan announced that from next Monday (23rd), face-to-face classes from Primary One to Primary Three will be suspended until the 6th of next month. As for the suspension of face-to-face classes started from last Saturday (14th) in kindergartens, it will also be extended to 6th of next month. The Department will then review the situation again and consider whether to extend it. In addition, she emphasised that if the situation worsens, it will not rule out the suspension of face-to-face classes in all primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong.

She pointed out that the Department of Health had reported 439 outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infections, affecting more than 4,040 people. Nearly 60% of them involved elementary schools, 70% of which involved elementary and primary schools. Another 147 cases involved kindergartens and child care centres. The situation is worrying. The spread of upper respiratory tract infection is similar to that of COVID-19 epidemic.

Dr.Chan continued to point out that the number of cases and clusters of unknown origin has increased in the community, indicating that the transmission situation is worrying. Recently, there have been outbreaks linked to staycation in hotels and dance rooms, so the related gatherings should be reduced immediately. The government has already added hotels to the listed premises to regulate gatherings and also had a meeting with the hotel industry players yesterday. The government will finalise details and give instructions as soon as possible.

The authorities will also review and tighten social distancing measures, and will make a decision and announce it as soon as possible. She warned that if the epidemic continues to worsen, it will inevitably be tightened and even closed down listed premises. The authorities also plan to strengthen testing. Dr.Chan said that the three groups will now be subject to mandatory testing as soon as possible, including people with symptoms, elderly home employees and taxi drivers. The relevant policy bureaus will implement mandatory testing soon. In addition, the authorities understand the grassroots citizens are worried that the diagnosis will affect their livelihoods. The Labour and Welfare Bureau is considering providing a lump-sum allowance to the confirmed cases.

The Hong Kong and Singapore travel bubble was originally scheduled to start on 22nd November, Dr.Sophia Chan was asked whether the fourth wave of the epidemic in Japan would affect subsequent travel bubble arrangement with different countries. She responded that the two parties have a fuse mechanism for the travel bubble arrangement and will deal with it accordingly.

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