Our Worries for EDB’s Request to Conduct Regular Virus Testing for all School Staff to Satisfy the Condition of Full Class Resumption
Referring to the announcement of the Education Bureau (EDB) on 3rdFebruary 2021 that “if schools can arrange all teachers and staff to undergo regular virus testing once every two weeks, they will have the condition to fully resume half-day face-to-face classes. They need to conduct and complete the tests within 14 days before the resumption of face-to-face classes and submit applications to the EDB”, the Executive Committee of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS) has the following response:
- Same as all Hong Kong citizens, we worry about the situation of the pandemic in Hong Kong and are very ready to take the advice from the medical experts to implement allfeasible anti-pandemic measures to stop the spread of the pandemic. Since last year, we have been maintaining the hygiene of the school premises, ensuring social distancing and doing our best to stop the spread of the pandemic in schools. Working in the front-line, we very much hope that students and teachers can resume their normal school life in a safe environment as soon as possible and students can learn happily together.
- Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, all the discussions between the EDB and the education sector on the arrangement of resumption of face-to-face classes are based on the “advice from the medical experts”, which is the most important consideration. If the medical experts think that there is still risk for the resumption of face-to-face classes, we should take their advice and resume face-to-face classes for all levels until the pandemic situation is eased.
- If the medical experts think that the arrangement of having teachers and staff working in schools to undergo regular virus testing once every 14 days to ensure the safety of the school environment is an indispensable condition to the full resumption of half-day face-to-face classes, the EDB should quote the “Prevention and Control of Disease (Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons) Regulation (Cap.599j))” and publish in the Gazette a compulsory testing notice, which requires teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools to undergo a COVID-19 nucleic acid test. Itis very undesirable to request schools to submit applications to the EDB for full resumption of half-day face-to-face classes.
- Even if teachers and staff will undergo virus testing every 14 days, there is still risk of the spread of the pandemic in schools. There are other possibilities: the people who have undergone virus testing may be infected after the test; the number of students who have not undergone virus testing is multiples of the number of teachers and staff; and students may infect students or teachers.Thus, requesting “schools to arrange all teachers and staff to undergo regular virus testing once every two weeks” as the condition for full resumption of half-day face-to-face classes is in lack of scientific justification and unreasonable.
- During the pandemic, schools implement strictly the anti-pandemic measures, and help the public examinations to run smoothly. Teachers do their best to equip themselves and adapt to changes, adopt different methods to cater for students’ learning needs, care for students’ mental health, and give emotional counselling and guidance. Having all teachers and staff to undergo regular virus testing once every two weeks as the necessary condition for full resumption of half-day face-to-face classes will only increase the burden for teachers.
- We understand there is no time to delay to fight the pandemic together. However, the policy of the EDB will only make tens of thousands of teachers undergo the virus testing repeatedly and waste huge manpower and medical resources. If the Government uses the same manpower and medical resources on the groups which really need the virus testing, it will bring more positive outcomes to our fight against the pandemic.
We have already expressed our grave concern about the arrangement to the EDB, and hope that the EDB can re-consider the arrangement and come up with reasonable conditions which are well-supported by scientific justification for resumption of face-to-face classes.
就教育局於 2021 年 2 月 3 日宣布「如有學校能安排全校教職員定期每兩星期進行 病毒檢測，這些學校有條件全校恢 復半天面授課堂，他們需在全校復課前十四天內進行及完成檢測，並向教育局申請」，香港中學校長會執委會回應如下:
- 倘若專家認為，惟有校內人士接受十四天病毒檢測，才能確保校園安全，是恢復面 授課堂的不可或缺條件，教育局宜引用《預防及控制疾病(對若干人士強制檢測) 規例》(《規例》)(第 599J 章)，就《規例》下的強制檢測公告刊憲，要求老師、職 員、學生及訪校人士進行強制檢測。現時要求學校向教育局申請恢復面授課堂，做法極不理想。
- 即使教職員接受十四天病毒檢測後，校園仍存有染疫風險。接受檢測者可能在檢測後才染疫，而沒有參加檢測的學生數字遠多於教職員十倍，學生有機會傳染學生， 也可以傳染老師。那麼要求「學校安排全校教職員定期每兩星期進行病毒檢測」才 可以全校恢復面授課堂，便是一個欠缺科學理據且不合理的要求。
- 疫情期間，學校一直嚴格執行防疫措施，協助公開考試順利進行。老師努力裝備及 應變，以不同方式盡力照顧學生學習需要，關心學生精神健康，進行情緒輔導。若然以全校教職員檢測作為全校復課的必然條件，只會讓學校工作百上加斤。
- 我們理解、支持防疫抗疫刻不容緩，教育局政策將導致全港數以萬計的老師重覆檢測，虛耗了香港龐大的人力及醫療資源，若政府將同樣的人力及資源更對焦地用於 需檢的群體中，對抗疫起更積極正面的果效。
2021 年 2 月 4 日