Considerations for parents when planning travel with children during the COVID-19 outbreak20Feb2020
Closure of schools and public spaces
The Hong Kong Education Bureau has announced that all schools in Hong Kong are to remain closed until at least 16 March 2020 in consideration of the ongoing public health concerns related to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Hong Kong. This is the third announcement made in respect of the city-wide school closure by the EDB. Further announcements by the EDB can be monitored on the ‘Latest News’ page of the EDB website here as and when they are made. 2020-02-25 UPDATE: School closure is now extended until 20 April 2020.
Given the concurrent closure of many public spaces including libraries, play areas and museums, and considering that many schools are offering online learning options for students during the closure period, many parents have already made or intend to make plans to travel with their children away from Hong Kong until the virus has been contained and schools reopen.
Easter and summer school holidays
It is at present unknown when classes will resume or whether the extended suspension of face to face learning will result in a change to the length or timing of upcoming school holidays including the Easter and summer breaks. Parents who have divorced or are going through a divorce will often have knowledge of the exact dates to share time over the children’s school holidays well in advance, either through agreement or court order. As such, travel or other holiday plans may well have been made by parents in advance.
In these extraordinary circumstances and considering the many unknowns regarding the resumption of classes and the potential impact on the school holidays, parents should apply flexibility and good judgment to discussions with each other in rescheduling or re-splitting the children’s school holidays if this is ultimately necessary.
Consent to travel
Although some parents may be feeling a sense of urgency to leave Hong Kong with their children at the moment for concerns regarding health, education or simply wanting to use this time to get away, any changes to or new plans for travel with children must be made only with the consent of the other parent. If you are divorced or currently engaged in divorce proceedings and you wish to travel with your children and the other parent does not consent, the appropriate application should be made. If there are no proceedings on foot and consent for the children to travel is not given by the other parent the intended travel should not go ahead.
Ordinarily parents may seek assistance from the Family Court to obtain permission to travel if consent is not provided by the other parent. However, with the ongoing closure of the courts until at least 23 February 2020 due to COVID-19 currently only urgent applications are being heard through the Duty Judge system. Whether an application to remove children from Hong Kong is urgent will be a matter of fact for the court’s determination. However, ordinarily such an application will not be considered urgent. For specific or urgent advice please contact Joanne Brown on +852 2573 5000.
Joanne Brown and Elizabeth Seymour-Jones
If you would like to discuss any of the matters raised in this article, please contact: