Hong Kong civil servants to return to work-from-home arrangements, with DSE exams to be postponed

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    Hong Kong will make civil servants work from home again and postpone university entrance exams, sources said, as the city faces a resurgent coronavirus threat because of imported and community-spread infections, the city’s chief executive said at a Saturday night press conference.

    “It is a critical moment, as the flood of inbound residents is expected to last for two more weeks,” Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said, adding that the risk of a massive community outbreak was at its highest in two months.

    The move comes as the city recorded a surge of confirmed cases in the past week, bringing the local tally to 273.

    Among the epidemic control measures introduced was the resumption of a work-from-home policy for civil servants, and the closure of facilities under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department including outdoor sports grounds, fitness centres, four museums and seven libraries from Monday.

    Government staff had begun to return to their offices since March 2, after a month spent away from the office as a precaution against the coronavirus.

    DSE exams have also been postponed for four weeks to April 24, with Chinese and English-language oral examinations cancelled, Lam said. All schools are also being suspended until further notice, according to Secretary of Education Kevin Keung Yun-hung.

    Lam added that “no tolerance” would be granted those violating home-quarantine orders, as four had been arrested after authorities traced their posts on social media.

    “The Department of Health sent them to quarantine camps for the mandatory order, and the police will further investigate and charge them,” Lam said, urging all under home-quarantine to not test the law.

    The first DSE exam was originally to have taken place on Friday, with the government providing surgical masks for all candidates.

    Lam stopped short of mandating shortened hours for the city’s bars and restaurants as some insiders had predicted, but called on residents to avoid going out when possible and asked restaurateurs to adjust their operations as necessary with a view toward public health.

    “I appeal to all residents, for the good of themselves, for their families, and for Hong Kong, please reduce all unnecessary going out, and avoid meal gatherings,” Lam said. “I also appeal to the relevant industry, for the sake of public health, to adjust their operations and lower risks for their customers.”

    Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, meanwhile, said the government would send a second batch of chartered flights on Wednesday and Thursday to Wuhan, ground zero of the coronavirus, to bring stranded Hongkongers home.

    Source : South China Morning Post

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