Hong Kong to Shut All Schools After Mild Virus Spike

A girl wears a protective face mask as she does homework at a subway train in Hong Kong on Jan. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG (AFP) — Hong Kong will close all schools after a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus infections, the city’s education minister said Friday.

Schools will close from Monday, bringing forward the start of the summer holidays, Kevin Yeung said, after the city recorded 38 new confirmed cases on Friday, 32 of which were locally transmitted. 

In contrast, in the United States, which is reporting more than 50,000 new infections each day, President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold funding from schools that do not open as usual in the fall, though it is not clear that he has the power to do that.

The 38 new cases in Hong Kong were a setback for the city, where daily lives were returning to normal with restaurants and bars resuming normal business and cultural attractions reopening.

Despite being next to mainland China, where the outbreak emerged in late 2019, Hong Kong had largely managed to quash local transmissions in recent months.

But new infection clusters started to emerge on Tuesday, including at an elderly care home that reported at least 32 cases and a housing estate that reported 11 cases.

At least 21 new infections in the past five days have been classified as unknown in origin, meaning authorities are struggling to work out how the disease is spreading.

Authorities were facing “difficulties” in tracing the sources and the close contacts of those infected in the new cluster, said Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan of Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection.

All secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens are to close from July 13, Yeung said, though schools will be allowed to hold important examinations. 

Hong Kong’s public high schools were closed in January amid the early stages of the pandemic, and were gradually reopened from May after the territory successfully curbed new infections. 

Health authorities on Thursday announced a reintroduction of limits on how many people can gather in restaurants, bars and fitness centers.

A maximum of eight people can sit together at restaurants, while bars, pubs and nightclubs are capped at four people per table.

Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million, has reported 1,403 cases of the virus and seven deaths.

© Agence France-Presse

%d bloggers like this: