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Monday, November 30, 2020, 09:04
HK to suspend classes as pandemic worsens
By Shadow Li
Monday, November 30, 2020, 09:04 By Shadow Li

Hong Kong announced it will suspend classes for all kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and is set to require mandatory testing for more high-risk groups as it saw 115 COVID-19 infections on Sunday, the first three-digit single-day tally since the fourth wave of the pandemic began in mid-November. 

Sixty-two, or over half of the new infections, were linked to the city’s largest cluster to date — dancing clubs, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in this group to 479. The total tally stood at 6,238. 

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, described the current wave of the pandemic as more severe than the third wave in July and August

A total of 24 new infections were untraceable. Another 50 people tested preliminary positive. 

In light of a worsening of the pandemic, the government on Sunday afternoon announced it will suspend classes at all kindergartens, primary and secondary schools from Wednesday until the end of the Christmas break. 

ALSO READ: 27 untraced COVID-19 cases among 84 new in HK

The announcement by the Education Bureau also suspends face-to-face classes for private tutorial schools for two weeks. 

In a news briefing on Sunday afternoon, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, described the current wave of the pandemic as more severe than the third wave in July and August, when Hong Kong saw over 3,500 infections recorded. 

Hong Kong has reported 721 cases since Nov 21, with cases building up to 115 on Sunday. The previous day, the city recorded 27 untraceable infections, the highest for the past three months, a tally Chuang said is “worrying” to see spiral and urged Hong Kong residents to stay at home. 

Chuang said the government will issue a notice later to demand that those who have been to three restaurants in Wan Chai, Central and Sheung Wan since Nov 15 take mandatory testing after over 10 infections were linked to three new clusters relating to employees and customers of the restaurants. 

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong on Sunday, on his blog post, confirmed that the government will ask all employees from nursing homes and homes for the disabled to be tested before Dec 14, to avoid the virus spreading to the most vulnerable. 

Later, the testing will be made a weekly requirement, Law said. 

READ MORE: Hospital Authority apologizes for virus test results mix-up

Law’s announcement came on the same day as employees and residents of two care homes were required to be tested after positive cases were found there. 

A staff member at the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Fong Shu Chuen Day Activity Centre for the intellectually challenged was confirmed to be infected and another resident of the center tested preliminary positive. 

Another caretaker at Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Ho Yuk Ching Willow Lodge, a nursing home at Tai Kok Tsui, Kowloon, also tested preliminary positive. 

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong confirmed that the government will ask all employees from nursing homes and homes for the disabled to be tested before Dec 14 to avoid the virus spreading to the most vulnerable

Moreover, three more schools need to suspend their classes immediately and have all students tested after their students were found to be infected or preliminary positive for the coronavirus. 

In light of the dancing clubs cluster having extensive contact with various groups in society, Chuang said social distancing should be restricted across Hong Kong and urged the public to reconsider whether to go out. 

She said members of the dancing clubs cluster have a wide range of activities including teaching music instruments, or teaching courses at public community centers, leading to a further spread in infections. 

Government consultant David Hui Shu-cheong, an infectious disease expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that he had suggested tightening social distancing rules, including closing restaurants after 10 pm and shutting down karaoke venues, concerts, and schools and reinstating workfromhome arrangements for civil servants. 

READ MORE: Zero infection, economic revival pledged in 4th Policy Address

It was reported that the government will require residents to scan the Leave Home Safe QR code when entering some venues to help track activities of those infected. Currently, residents can scan the QR code on a voluntary basis. 

The government on Saturday announced that establishments such as diners, nightclubs, karaoke venues, gyms and entertainment facilities are required to apply for the QR code and post it at a prominent place at their entrance within two days of receiving the code. Failure to comply may incur a fine of HK$50,000 (US$6,451) and six months’ imprisonment. 

Also, two new community testing centers — one in Fanling and another Tuen Mun, opened to the public on Sunday. The testing centers are among five planned for the surging pandemic. Two more — one in Yau Tong and another in Hang Hau are to open on Monday and the one in Lai Chi Kok is already in use.

stushadow@chinadailyhk.com

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