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New school year to start in HK amid new flu
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As influenza A/H1N1 causes relatively mild symptoms, all schools in the city will start the new school year as scheduled, the Hong Kong Education Bureau announced Monday.

The bureau's decision came after considering the latest assessment of Hong Kong's Department of Health, which reckons the new strain influenza leads to relatively gentle disease though it is easily transmitted.

Kindergartens, child care centers, special schools and primary schools in Hong Kong have been closed since June 11 when the first cluster of indigenous cases of A/H1N1 influenza was confirmed. While some middle schools suspended classes due to confirmed cases found.

To safeguard teachers' and students' health, schools should be well-prepared before the new school year starts by following the Center for Health Protection's guidelines on prevention of the new flu for the new school year's commencement.

"The bureau will provide an extra 3,000 HK dollars (US$387.6) one-off grant to each school to purchase necessary equipment or necessities," Secretary for Education Michael Suen said.

After classes begin, the center will advise individual schools whether to suspend classes if they have an outbreak of the new flu. Indicators include students' sick-leave rate reaching 10 percent or above; students hospitalization rate exceeding 1 percent; admission of two or more students to the intensive care unit; or death of an otherwise healthy student due to flu.

The general period for class suspension is seven days, but the center will consider conditions such as the number of students affected, severely ill and hospitalized in advising whether individual school should extend class suspension.

(Xinhua News Agency July 21, 2009)

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