All schools in Hong Kong, including local and international kindergartens, primary, secondary and special schools, will not reopen until March 2, at the earliest. Last week the Education Bureau (EDB) extended the Chinese New Year holiday by two weeks as Hong Kong raised its response level to the Novel Coronavirus outbreak to "emergency". Today (Friday), the EDB extended this suspension of all classes for at least another two weeks.
There have been nearly 6,000 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness worldwide since the outbreak began in Wuhan, China last December; at least 210 people have died. There are 12 confirmed cases of the virus in Hong Kong to date.
Yesterday, the Coronavirus was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the outbreak continues to spread beyond China.
The Education Bureau (EDB) announced today (Friday): "Due to the latest epidemic development, all schools (including kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, special schools and private schools offering non-formal curriculum) will resume classes on March 2 the earliest pending further assessment."
The EDB said that it will follow professional health advice and decide when to reopen schools after taking "into account the readiness of schools as well as the supply of epidemic preventative equipment in the community, etc".
Schools in Hong Kong were originally due to reopen from Wednesday, January 28 after the CNY holiday. However, classes will now be suspended for students at all schools, including those run by the English Schools Foundation (ESF), for an extra four weeks or more as Hong Kong's government tries to tackle the further spread of the Coronavirus.
The ESF said: "The EDB today announced that all special school, kindergarten, primary and secondary school classes are suspended until 2 March. Students, therefore, should not travel to school.
"ESF parents will be contacted shortly regarding online learning for our students. Any questions, please contact your school through the usual communications channels."
This is the second time in the 2019-20 academic year that international schools have been told to close; all classes were suspended for up to one week in November 2019 due to the ongoing protests across Hong Kong.
During the closure period, the EDB has urged schools to "make good use of e-learning, such as providing students with useful learning materials through emails, school websites, e-learning platforms and other effective means".
Mark Steed, principal and CEO at Kellett School, said:
"The announcement of the closure of schools and kindergartens until March 2 will present a number of challenges for both schools and parents alike.
"No school can afford to lose a month’s teaching. This is especially true in the crucial GCSE and A Level years where the next couple of weeks were set aside for mock examinations.
"Once again, we will be calling on our home learning programmes with teachers setting and marking work through our online platform. In the senior school we are endeavouring to deliver a normal timetable using a combination of Google classroom, screencasts, vodcasts and video conferenced lessons. Thank goodness for technology."
The EDB has also suspended and postponed all students' exchange programmes in Mainland China, and has "called on tertiary institutions to make similar arrangements for internship and exchange activities".
Commenting on applications for the recently announced student grant of HKD 2,500 for the 2019/20 academic year, the EDB said that the deadline for submission would be extended by two weeks to February 28.
Read more: EDB Launches Student Grants for 2020