Given the concerns of mask shortage in Hong Kong schools, the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (HKFEW) will give away 100,000 free masks to the schools and 50,000 masks for teachers to purchase in the view of coronavirus outbreak.
HKFEW’s chairman Wong Kam-leung said on Thursday (12 March) that 50,000 masks will be distributed to 500 schools in need, where each school will receive 100 masks. He added that the federation’s member teachers will receive another 15,000 masks, while special schools will get 5,000 masks for its staff and students, as reported in South China Morning Post.
It was reported that this second biggest teachers’ union in Hong Kong, which has 35,000 members, sourced 150,000 masks and will provide 50,000 masks or 1,000 boxes for teachers to buy at HK$100 (S$18.16) per box.
Mr Wong said that 20 children’s masks and 10 adult’s masks will also be distributed to teachers for free with the purchase of each box of masks.
On top of the free masks distribution, HKFEW also requested the local production line to increase the mask production up to 200,000 children’s masks a day by May and sell it at lower than market price.
Mr Wong said, “Even the 150,000 masks [sourced this time] were barely enough to cover the needs of all schools. To ensure a stable supply especially after classes resume, it is important to seek support from production lines.”
The vice-chairman of HKFEW Tang Fei also mentioned that the masks available in the market are expensive, costing up to HK$10 (S$1.82) per piece.
The move of HKFEW was received favourably by the chairman of the Hong Kong Special Schools Council George Leung Wing-hung, who stated that it will benefit 20 specials schools with hostel facilities that are still operational, covering the special needs students.
Mr Leung said that many schools with a large capacity of students would have to look for new masks in April though the schools had received sufficient masks for students in the month of March over the past few weeks via mask donations.
Due to the fears of coronavirus, Hong Kong authorities had earlier announced the suspension of school classes until 2 March, later extended to 16 March. Now, schools are expected to be resuming on 20 April or later, subject to the coronavirus situation.
Meanwhile, some of the schools expressed concerns that if two masks are given to every student a day when schools resume, the stock will only last less than a week, which consequently would lead to an insufficient supply of masks.
The principal of Lions College and former chairman of the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council James Lam Yat-fung addressed that many schools, especially primary school, are lacking masks, though their school had stocked about 2,000 masks.
Speaking on the mask insufficiency in Hong Kong schools, the chairman of HKFEW called on the Education Bureau to provide schools with protective equipment when schools resume. However, this suggestion did not get much response from the bureau.
According to SCMP, a spokesperson of the Education Bureau said that improvements can be seen in mask supply where schools received a one-off subsidy from the bureau to purchase masks as per their needs, adding that the bureau will have plenty of time for suitable preparation before schools resume on 20 April.