According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong schools could resume face-to-face classes in phases by mid or late September at the earliest, starting with half-day sessions for secondary students.
Restaurants are now allowed to offer dine-in service until 9pm, cinemas can reopen at half capacity, and people no longer have to wear masks while exercising outdoors. Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung met representatives from local secondary and primary school councils and school heads associations this week (August 27) to discuss arrangements for the new school year. They are yet to make an announcement on when schools will reopen.
Belinda Greer, CEO of the English Schools Foundation (ESF) was among those at the meeting. In a letter to parents, Greer said:
"...the meeting with the Education Bureau (EDB) was positive and indicated that we are moving closer to having a date when students can return to school. We continue to work with the principals on our ‘return to school’ models, aiming to bring back your children as quickly and seamlessly as possible within the EDB guidelines."
Meanwhile, Yeung has used his Facebook page to appeal to teachers, students and parents to join Hong Kong's new Universal Community Testing Scheme. The mass testing scheme, which will be launched on September 1, will run for at least seven days at 141 temporary testing facilities held at sites including government schools, community halls, and sports centres.
Yeung said in his post:
"I hope that principals, teachers, students and parents will be able to combat the disease and pay more attention to their environment and personal hygiene, including active participation in the testing scheme.
"The more people who participate in the programme, the greater the results. I hope that the epidemic will subside as soon as possible, teachers and students can return to campus as usual, and we can restart face-to-face classes."
For the prevention and control of Covid-19, all local secondary and primary schools will start the new academic year on September 1 with distance learning. The majority of kindergartens and international schools in Hong Kong have already started their new academic year with a programme of distance learning.
The Education Bureau (EDB) says it is "closely monitoring the development of the epidemic and seeking advice from medical experts". It is expected to give schools at least two weeks' notice on when face-to-face classes can resume.
As Hong Kong battles to contain a third wave of Covid-19 cases, the government decided in mid-July to keep all schools closed until further notice. It is yet another setback for schools and students in Hong Kong, which have faced a turbulent 12 months. First, classes were suspended for up to one week in November 2019 due to protests across Hong Kong. Then, all campuses were closed from the end of January due to Covid-19 and all classes switched to distance learning; they reopened from late May with strict social distancing measures in place.