Coronavirus: armed with masks, sanitiser, few of nearly 13,000 HK DSE candidates fail to see exam through on second day

28-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The second day of Hong Kong’s delayed university entrance exams saw 14 students feel unwell enough that they could not take or finish their tests, including one sent to hospital for Covid-19 testing.

Some 13,000 students, including those with special needs, took tests on chemistry, combined science (chemistry) or integrated science at about 180 exam centres in secondary schools citywide, a much higher number than the 3,300 who sat for the visual arts exam the day before.

According to the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, 10 sick students had reported themselves absent by Saturday at 3pm, while two others were barred from entering the exam centres due to signs of fever or acute respiratory infections. Two others left the centres midway through the exam after feeling unwell.

Education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung praised those who called in absent for safeguarding their own health and that of their fellow candidates as “responsible”.

“I wish them a speedy recovery, so that they can take the remaining exams,” he said.

At a daily presser, Dr Lau Ka-hin, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for quality and standards, said a 17-year-old boy who sat the DSE exam on Saturday had been sent to the emergency ward of Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po after he was initially believed to have a fever.

Lau said the boy, who the hospital later determined had a cough but no fever, was now awaiting his coronavirus test result.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable diseases branch, urged students not to attend exams if they felt unwell.

“I understand that such exams are crucial for them in life. But if they are sick, they should avoid attending the exam for their own health as well as the safety of others,” Chuang said.

Earlier in the morning, a sick student who threw up at Lions College in Kwai Chung, one of the exam centres, caused a stir and sparked health concerns among fellow candidates.

Shortly before about 100 students started on their combined science paper at 8.30am, a male student fell sick and vomited in a toilet after entering the exam hall. He did not have a fever.

Staff at the school set up a plastic partition around his seat after he returned, to ease worries for those around him.

College principal James Lam Yat-fung said the candidate later decided he was unable to finish the exam and left the campus.

“It was common to see students feeling sick or throwing up at exam centres in previous years,” Lam said. “Some may just be too nervous.”

He said the student was “very cooperative”, and appealed to pupils who felt sick not to force themselves to take the tests.

Student Alex Lee, 17, who took the exam at the same school, said he was worried about infection risks despite having sat in another room.

“I am afraid we will catch the disease,” he said, referring to the sick candidate and how he might have been near the person earlier.

Lee said he approved of the social-distancing arrangements in his classroom, but added he would try not to go to the toilet.

Another worried candidate was Lam Wai-lok, 18, who wore a gas mask. “I can reuse this and its protection is better,” he said, adding that he was also a bit concerned about the sick student.

There are more than 52,000 candidates taking this year’s Diploma of Secondary Education exams between April 24 and May 25. The tests were initially expected to begin on March 27, but were pushed back for a month as the city came under the grip of the health crisis.

Education authorities have stepped up infection control measures, such as placing desks about 1.8 metres apart and requiring all candidates and invigilators to wear masks.

Candidates were also required to fill in health declaration forms and be checked for body temperature upon entering the venue. Those with a temperature of more than 38 degree Celsius would be asked to leave and go to a doctor promptly.

On the first day of the exams, a total of six candidates were unable to sit for the visual arts paper due to fever or other illness. Five called in sick and stayed away, while one reported being ill upon entering the venue and was asked to leave.

Another test taker at Lions College, Kandice Wong, 17, said while she felt at ease, she would have been worried had the sick student chosen to stay.

Wong added that she had used an alcohol spray to sanitise her seat and desk. She noted that desks in her hall might not be 1.8 metres from others, but still found the distance between candidates appropriate.


Category: Hong Kong

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