Hong Kong to halt in-person kindergarten classes after common cold outbreak

Children in Hong Kong have spent over six months learning from home in 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong ordered the city's kindergartens and childcare centres to stop in-person classes for two weeks after an apparent outbreak of the common cold, though none of the cases tested positive for Covid-19.

The stoppage, resulting from the recent jump in upper respiratory tract infections, will begin on Saturday (Nov 14), Health Secretary Sophia Chan said at a briefing in Hong Kong on Thursday.

She wouldn't rule out an extension of the suspension if the situation deteriorates.

Though none of the students or staff in the related facilities tested positive for the coronavirus, the decision was made in light of the ongoing pandemic, upcoming winter flu season, pressure on the public healthcare system and the personal hygiene habits of young children, she said.

There have been 171 outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection affecting more than 1,900 people, with 101 of the outbreaks linked to kindergartens and childcare centres, she said.

Kindergartens and nurseries opened their doors to students almost two months after the city largely contained the spread of Covid-19.

In total, children in the Asian financial centre have spent over six months learning from home this year.

The Centre for Health Protection issued an alert on Nov 5 urging the public to remain vigilant.

Children are more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses, as their immune system has had less exposure to viruses, Dr Ho Pak Leung, a clinical associate professor at the University Hong Kong University, told RTHK.

Symptoms are akin to the common cold, the flu, and Covid-19.

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