Pupils without jabs won’t be labelled: govt

Undersecretary for education Christine Choi on Tuesday dismissed concerns that there will be a labelling effect on unvaccinated students who can’t take part in extracurricular activities, saying they can still attend regular lessons.

Face-to-face classes can resume after the Easter holiday, but pupils will be required to take daily Covid tests and only those with a negative result can go to school.

Unvaccinated students will be barred from taking part in non-academic activities in the afternoon, such as special interest groups or sport.

Choi told an RTHK programme that the pandemic is still serious and even those who are vaccinated can come down with Covid, so this is why the government feels that it’s safer for pupils to take daily rapid tests, regardless of their vaccination status.

But she said officials will in future review the frequency of the testing.

When it comes to the ban on extra-curricular activities for those unjabbed, Choi said the students “have a choice”.

“If they really need to take part but are not medically unfit to get jabbed, they should get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and other students. This is the only effective way,” she said.

“If the students are really enthusiastic about joining the activities, and their health conditions allow them to get vaccinated, why not get inoculated?”

Some parents who phoned the programme said it is unreasonable for them to bear the costs of rapid test kits.

A woman surnamed Leung said the daily testing arrangement is a headache for her, adding that one of her two sons easily gets nosebleeds.

She also said she was afraid she would end up spending thousands of dollars a month on test kits.

Another parent, a man surnamed Wong, said both his sons are vaccinated, questioning why they are treated no differently from those students who have not had jabs.

“For my two children, they will use 10 test kits a week. Even for the cheaper ones, they still cost HK$10 or HK$20 each. Parents feel that the extra costs will burden them,” he said.

The undersecretary said the government will hand out about 10 million test kits to around 300,000 underprivileged students.

But she rejected calls to provide them at no cost to all pupils, saying government policy is to only help those in need.

Choi said schools can also exercise their discretion and buy test kits using government subsidies, but she doesn’t believe most families will find buying their own kits to be a big financial burden.