Hong Kong suspends plans for school reopening weeks after relaxing coronavirus lockdown restrictions

The region reported 123 new cases of COVID-19 in the last week

Hong Kong officials announced Friday that they are suspending classes in kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools after a recent spike in new coronavirus cases.

The government said the semi-autonomous Chinese territory reported 42 new cases of the virus on Thursday, 34 of which were locally transmitted from elderly homes or restaurants where known positive cases of the virus were previously identified.

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Over the last week, there have been 123 new cases of COVID-19 recorded, 65 of which were attributed to local transmission, but health officials are still grappling with the origins of the majority of new cases.

The region's Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung told reporters his department was trying to “balance the safety of the students as well as the educational needs of the students."

Students wearing face masks wait in line to have body temperatures checked at entrance of a school on June 15, 2020 in Hong Kong, China.

Students wearing face masks wait in line to have body temperatures checked at entrance of a school on June 15, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. (China News Service via Getty)

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Schools have mostly been closed since February after students shifted to online and remote learning at the start of the pandemic, but reopened with tighter restrictions, like mandatory masks for teachers and students in May.

Exceptions to the school closures will be made to allow some students to proceed with exams in person if they adhere to mask mandates and social distancing restrictions, Yeung said.

Hong Kong has reported 1,365 cases with seven deaths since the pandemic began.

Government officials also tightened up restrictions on tentative reopenings in the region, allowing restaurants to operate at 60 percent seating capacity with a maximum of eight people per table, while bars and nightclubs are only permitted to have up to four people per table.

Fitness centers and karaoke bars will be limited to eight patrons at any given time.

“As society needs to resume some economic and social activities to a limited extent, it is inevitable that new local cases will appear,” Sophia Chan, the secretary for food and health, said on Thursday.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.