HK extends suspension of in-person classes
HONG KONG • The Hong Kong government yesterday extended its suspension of face-to-face classes until mid-February. Schools in the Chinese city have been mostly shut for a year, with many having switched to online learning.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said all kindergartens and schools would suspend in-person teaching until after the Chinese New Year holiday ending on Feb 15.
Primary and secondary schools can allow some students to return to take exams under strict conditions.
Hong Kong saw a resurgence in the number of Covid-19 cases at end-November, prompting various curbs including shutting down dining in at restaurants between 6pm and 5am.
Scotland imposes strict lockdown
LONDON • Scotland yesterday imposed the most stringent Covid-19 lockdown since last March, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would shortly impose tougher curbs in England to contain a rapidly spreading outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus.
“We have decided to introduce from midnight (Tuesday), for the duration of January, a legal requirement to stay at home, except for essential purposes,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Schools will close for all but the children of essential workers.
Vaccines ‘might not work’ on virus variant
LONDON • Scientists are not fully confident that Covid-19 vaccines will work on a new variant of the coronavirus found in South Africa, ITV’s political editor said yesterday, citing an unidentified scientific adviser to the British government.
Both Britain and South Africa have discovered new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus in recent weeks that have driven a surge in cases.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that he was now very worried about the strand found in South Africa.
Several scientists, including BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin and Regius Professor of Medicine John Bell at the University of Oxford, have said they are testing the vaccines on the new variants and say they could make any required tweaks in around six weeks.
Scientists say the new South African variant has multiple mutations in the important “spike” protein that the virus uses to infect human cells. It has also been associated with a higher viral load, meaning a higher concentration of virus particles in the bodies of patients, possibly contributing to higher levels of transmission.