Students in Hong Kong from Primary Four to Form Two will resume classes on Monday even as concerns mount over a recent cluster of coronavirus infections linked to a public housing block.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said some parents with children studying in Sha Tin had expressed fear after seven residents of Luk Chuen House at Lek Yuen Estate in the district were confirmed with Covid-19.
The city also recorded three imported cases on Saturday, bringing the tally to 1,105. The new patients comprised a 26-year-old woman from Britain and two arrivals from Pakistan. No new local case was reported.
Yeung said officials and schools in Sha Tin had ramped up communication following the emergence of the housing block cluster, while institutions near the estate were working to assure students, teachers and parents.
“We have communicated with medical experts and we will go ahead with resuming classes Monday. But I believe schools will be more careful and meticulous in their preparation work,” Yeung said on a Saturday radio programme.
His remarks came after 75 residents of Luk Chuen House – from flats numbered 12 and 10 across all floors – were evacuated from their homes this week.
The move was made when five residents from three flats numbered 12, and one numbered 10, were confirmed with the virus. Two other infected residents in the block had stayed in flats of different numbers on the eighth floor, where the building’s first reported patient, a 34-year-old woman, also lived.
The Centre for Health Protection said as of Saturday 4pm, 1,363 deep-throat saliva samples from residents of the block had been tested. Apart from the four previously reported cases, the others returned negative results.
Health authorities, with the help of police, also confirmed that residents of one household who could not be contacted previously had moved out before April. So far, four households are uncontactable. The centre urged them to reach out to authorities as soon as possible and undergo testing.
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, an expert from the University of Hong Kong who advises the government on the pandemic, believed kitchen exhaust fans could be the transmission method among the three flats numbered 12.
For the two other homes which did not face the same direction as flats 12 and 10, Yuen believed the residents there could have become infected through contact with surfaces in common areas, such as postboxes, main entrance doors, and lift buttons.
He said both theories of transmission through extraction fans and common surface areas “could coexist”.
The Housing Department said on Friday night that pipes in most flats numbered 10 and 12 in the block had been inspected, and the facilities were found to be normal. The checks would be extended to other flats in the block.
Two dozen student concern groups from secondary schools in Sha Tin on Saturday urged authorities to suspend classes because of the pandemic.
“Despite the social distancing measures, the government still allowed residents to go to work and to school, which exposes them to highly dense environments,” the joint statement read.
Their calls came a day after more than 30 Sha Tin district councillors demanded that schools in the area be suspended to prevent a wider outbreak.
“After classes resume, it will be unavoidable for secondary and primary students to have close contact for a relatively long time. It will be hard to maintain enough social distancing among them, so their infection risks will surge,” they said in a statement released earlier this week.