Back to school: Students Must Take COVID-19 Rapid Tests Daily

All students and teachers will be required to conduct daily rapid antigen tests (RATs) when schools resume in-person teaching in phases, as Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Monday. 

In less than two months after the early commencement of summer holiday, the government announced that schools will switch back to half-day face-to-face classes after the easter holiday. As the resumption will happen gradually according to school grades, online lessons will be provided for students who are not able to return to campus yet.

Resumption dates vary among kindergarten, primary and secondary schools:

Kindergartens: Three grades of students will return from May 3, May 10 and May 10 respectively.

Primary Schools: Students will return earliest from April 19th, and the whole school should return latest by May 3. Schools can decide by themselves whether to carry out the resumption in phases or at once.

Secondary Schools: Students will return earliest from May 3d, and the whole school should return latest by May 10. Schools can decide by themselves whether to carry out the resumption in phases or at once.

In addition to social distancing, there are other new measures that the government has imposed on students upon the resumption of campus learning.

Latest measures imposed on students:

  1. All students are required to conduct RATs everyday. Only those who have negative results are allowed to go to school. The government will prepare 10 million test kits for an estimated 300,000 students in need.
  2. Only students who have been vaccinated are allowed to participate in extracurricular activities. 

These measures are imposed “in order to reduce infection risks at schools”, as Lam admitted that resumption of campus learning may risk the rebound of COVID-19 cases. Is the latest teaching and learning arrangement good news for students who have longed for campus life, or does it have a price to pay?

Not ready for campus learning

Students from kindergartens are also going back to school. (Photo: Getty Images)

“After three years, I am now more used to online than face-to-face learning. Once I return to campus, I can no longer sleep in class. Also, the teaching quality will be more or less the same whether on zoom or in a real classroom,” said Nicole Lam, a secondary-five student studying at Pooi To Middle School. 

Janice Ng, a secondary-one student studying at Ying Wa Girl’s school agreed that this may not be the best timing for the resumption. “It is annoying. The policies are ever-changing and I have to bring my textbooks back and forth between home and school.”

Concerns about daily RATs requirement

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Arthur Lo, a secondary-five student from Wah Yan College (Kowloon) said the daily RATs requirement is “pointless”. “I will not wake up fifteen minutes earlier just to conduct the test. People can just conduct multiple tests in one day and take photos of all the negative results, therefore the measure will not be effective in reducing infection risks.”

Ng also thinks there is no need for daily RATs, doubting its accuracy and arguing that it will be environmentally-unfriendly.

With the measure of daily RATs requirement imposed on students, it implies that parents have to allocate an extra sum of money to pay for the test kits and help their young children in testing every day. “A month of rapid testing kits worth a few hundred – and it is definitely a financial burden to parents,” said Wendy Li, who has two children studying in secondary school currently. “Moreover, there are not adults in all households who can help the kids with conducting the tests – what are those kids going to do?” 

Possibility of Discrimination

Regarding the government’s measure on excluding unvaccinated students from participation in extracurricular activities, the interviewed students Lo and Lam agree that it will not be a great influence on students. 

“Personally I am not passionate about non-academic activities. The measure will not become a motive for me to get vaccinated,” said Lam. 

While the interviewed students do not hold strong opinions about the measure, Li claimed that it may cause discrimination between pupils. “Whether to vaccinate or not should be a voluntary choice. This measure divides students into two groups and causes one to discriminate against another.” 

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