The Hong Kong government has announced that all kindergartens and childcare centers will close starting Saturday until the end of their scheduled Chinese New Year holidays to curb the spread of influenza.

Sophia Chan, the Secretary for the Food and Health Bureau, made the announcement after holding an inter-departmental meeting on the current flu situation on Thursday morning, according to a government release.

Chan said officials had considered a number of factors, including the latest flu figures, the admission rate and occupancy rates in the pediatric wards of public hospitals as well as the workload and pressure for medical personnel in recent days.

More than 370 kindergartens and childcare centers, or about 30% of pre-schools in the city, had already suspended classes for a week following the flu outbreaks.

Last year in February, all primary schools, kindergartens and special schools closed after a high number of flu cases among children.

Dr Wong Ka-hing, the head of the Centre for Health Protection, said the flu outbreak among children this year was “very serious” compared with the past couple of years, the Ming Pao Daily reported.

Among the current cases, 13 were critical and involved patients aged under 18. Eight of them were aged up to five years and two were in a stable condition and two were in a critical condition.

Dr Wong said they needed one or two weeks to monitor the flu figures to see whether the outbreak among children had reached its peak yet.