Hong Kong education and health officials Wednesday ordered all primary schools and kindergartens to close for two weeks amid a flu outbreak.
In an announcement posted on its website, the Hong Kong Education Bureau said: "All kindergartens, kindergartens-cum-child care centres, primary schools and special schools will begin the Easter holiday from March 13 to March 28."
Health secretary York Chow said the move was a precautionary measure against the spread of influenza in schools, according to the Government Information Service (GIS).
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) received reports of outbreaks of flu-like illness affecting 23 schools involving a total of 184 people Wednesday, GIS said.
A CHP spokesman said the illnesses could be caused by flu or other respiratory viruses.
GIS said laboratory tests on a seven-year-old boy who died after suffering respiratory and neurological symptoms showed positive results for influenza A (H1N1).
Initial tests on a three-year-old boy currently in a stable condition in hospital also showed positive results for the same strain.
Recent flu cases had caused anxiety and pressure among both parents and school management as to whether to allow children to attend schools, especially where there was an outbreak of the virus, Chow said.
"As the Easter holiday is only a week away, we decided to ask all the primary schools, kindergartens and nursery schools to take an early break for two weeks," Chow told reporters, according to GIS.
"This is both a precautionary as well as an administrative decision. During the break, schools will be thoroughly cleansed and the two-week period is two times of the incubation period for the virus," Chow added.
"We hope the break would minimise the chance of infection for these young children so that they can have a clean and healthy environment when they return after the holidays."
He said there was no indication that the virus was more virulent than the usual flu virus but said scientists would continue to investigate.
The decision to close the schools was made at a meeting of health, education and hospital authority officials.