© Reuters. Students attend to take the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hong Kong


HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of Hong Kong students were among the first in the world to take their final secondary school exams on Friday, all wearing face masks and having their temperatures checked after being stuck at home for months due to the coronavirus.

The Diploma of Secondary Education examination was given the go-ahead with a four-week delay as the number of new coronavirus cases has fallen, though social-distancing measures remain in place throughout the Chinese-ruled city.

“Although it’s relatively dangerous to start the examination for us candidates at this moment, the (exams) might have been cancelled altogether unless they were held now,” 19-year-old Emily Chui said before going into the exam hall at the Clementi Secondary School on Hong Kong island.

Hong Kong’s schools have been shut since late January.

The city reported two more coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking its total to 1,036. Four people have died. On Monday, the city reported no new cases for the first time since early March.

Students were asked to arrive early for temperature checks, while face masks were mandatory, hand sanitizer was available and desks were about 2 metres (6 feet) apart.

Students were also required to present a health declaration form.

Some candidates were still unsure about whether the exams should have been held while the city was still reporting new cases.

“It’s like we are risking our life for a seat in university and we don’t even know if we are going to succeed,” said Rita Hung, 18, said before walking in.

More than 3,000 students took the exams in the first sitting on Friday. In all, some 52,000 candidates will do so over the next month.

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