HONG KONG: Hong Kong will resume face-to-face school classes from Sep 23 as the Asian financial hub's authorities aim to wind back strict coronavirus restrictions, which kept around 900,000 students working at home for more than four months.
Kevin Yeung, the city's Secretary for Education, said the resumption would be phased with grades 1, 5 and 6 resuming for secondary schools, primary schools and upper kindergartens on Sep 23, while other grades would open on Sep 29.
The city's government had said at the start of August that face-to-face classes would be suspended indefinitely as the Chinese special administrative region battled to control a third wave of the coronavirus.
The reversal in policy comes with new daily cases dropping substantially to single and low double digits from triple digits a few weeks earlier. The Chinese government is also offering mass coronavirus testing for all Hong Kong residents starting this week.
Hong Kong has reported more than 4,800 COVID-19 cases and 89 deaths so far, according to a government website.
Schools in the former British colony have been mostly shut since January with many having switched to online learning. The switch to online has frustrated teachers, parents and students and exacerbated the learning gap between the haves and have-nots.
More than two thirds of parents, regardless of income, believe their children have difficulty learning at home, according to a February survey by the Education University of Hong Kong.
A survey by the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) of nearly 600 low-income students shows more than 70 per cent did not have computers and 28 per cent had no broadband at home.
Last Friday, Hong Kong eased some COVID-19 measures, allowing venues like cinemas and beauty parlours to reopen and restaurants to extend dining hours.
Health Secretary Sophia Chan said the government would allow outdoor sports centres to reopen and would lift mandatory mask wearing for outdoor sports and country parks.