Hong Kong Orders Tests for Class of Students, Quarantines Some
Hong Kong officials ordered compulsory Covid tests for eight- and nine-year-old school children in a class whose teacher tested positive for the virus, and not all of them were required to be quarantined, the Health Department said.
A department official clarified the government action at a press conference on Saturday, after parents of children who attend the Kellett School received emails from administrators the day before saying the entire class was ordered to be quarantined.
The school, one of the pricey international schools linked to a new cluster centered on the business and expatriate community, tried to protest the move, according to an email from Principal Mark Steed seen by Bloomberg News. The schoolchildren “were socially distanced at all times and both the teacher and students were wearing masks,” Steed wrote. The quarantined can be accompanied by a parent or caregiver, he said in the email.
Hong Kong, which has one of the strictest quarantine regimes in the world, requires all who have had close contact with infected persons to enter mandatory isolation for a period up to two weeks. More 200 people have been sent to quarantine in the latest flareup, which started with a trainer at a gym popular with western expats.
The news rattled the community of expat parents in the Asian financial hub, some of whom pay upwards of HK$250,000 ($32,000) a year for schooling. The spartan quarantine facilities don’t have WiFi and meals are delivered through slots in the doors.
Studies have found that school children did not spread infection in Hong Kong and that pandemic restrictions extract a major social and mental toll on the young. Still, the city has taken a strict line toward education institutions. Schools were shuttered three times in 2020 and only recently returned to in-person learning, although Hong Kong’s overall outbreak is far smaller than in western countries.
The strict mandatory quarantine rules in Hong Kong mirror those adopted in places like New Zealand and mainland China, where the coronavirus has been all but stamped out through tough measures isolating all infected people, even if they have no symptoms. The failure to effectively manage contagious people with mild or no symptoms is a driving factor behind some of the world’s worst resurgences.
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