Chief Executive Carrie Lam made the announcement on Tuesday, saying classes will be suspended until after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Speaking ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, she said suspending classes had been one of the most difficult decisions to make amid the pandemic, because it will have a profound impact on the mental and physical health of children.
But she noted that several young children had been infected with Covid-19 recently, and although they did not contract at school, their teachers and classmates had to be sent into quarantine as a result.
“They did not get infected in kindergartens or childcare centres. They got it from their family members at home. But they went to school before the infection was detected. As a result, the childcare centres and kindergartens had to be closed temporarily, and teachers and classmates who were their close contacts were sent to quarantine camps,” said Lam.
“This is very undesirable, as we don’t want to see such small children being sent into quarantine,” she said.
Lam said there are silent transmissions in the community, which means some people who may not know they are infected could spread the coronavirus to their young kids, who may then infect their schoolmates.
The CE also noted some schools had seen clusters of upper respiratory tract infections, and since the symptoms are similar to a Covid infection, it’s difficult to tell the difference.
Lam says secondary schools are not affected as older children can take care of themselves better.
Meanwhile, Lam announced that authorities have decided to offer Sinovac jabs for children aged between five and 11, and this will be done by outreach teams at schools after classes resume. Older children can already receive the jabs.
In response, the Hong Kong College of Paediatricians welcomed the expansion of the vaccination programme, saying children under the age of 18 years old remain a vulnerable group to Covid-19.
“Current evidence suggests that vaccination offers benefits that outweigh its potential risks. Vaccination of high risk people and vulnerable groups should be the top priority of the government,” the college said in a statement.
Last updated: 2022-01-11 HKT 21:28