SINGAPORE: New strict measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak were announced on Tuesday (Mar 24).
As part of the measures, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force said all centre-based tuition and enrichment classes will be suspended.
“This is to reduce the intermingling of students from different schools and enhance the safety of our students,” according to the statement.
The measure was announced along with limitations on gatherings outside school and work, including religious services, congregations and attractions.
READ: COVID-19 temporary measures – Gatherings outside of school and work limited to 10 people, entertainment venues to close
But parents have raised questions as to why schools have remained open while such centres have been ordered to close.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Education (MOE) addressed that query along with other common questions on its website.
Question: Why are schools still opened if tuition and enrichment classes are suspended?
The suspension of tuition and enrichment classes was not based on the number of students nor the type of activity conducted. The government’s focus is on minimizing the spread of the virus while making sure life goes on as normal.
In schools, MOE has made sure that students only mingle with their classmates. If there is a confirmed case in the school, immediate contact tracing is possible and the spread can be contained by putting the class in quarantine.
However, if there is a confirmed case in a tuition centre, many students from different schools may be at risk of infection.
Hence, MOE has also suspended classes at all MOE language centres, as well as private tuition and enrichment classes.
Q: How do we make sure students or those with family members who have travelled don’t come to school?
Students were asked to declare where they were travelling to before the March holidays. Schools have also conducted checks on every student at the gate, to ensure that only those who had not travelled out of Singapore to be allowed into the school.
As this is a matter of social responsibility, MOE also seeks parents’ cooperation to make truthful travel declarations so as not to put other children at risk.
Q: Are student care centres going to remain open?
Yes. Student care centres will remain open and more precautions will be taken. Student care centres are important as they help to care for students so that parents, especially those in the essential services such as healthcare, can focus on their work.
Q: How do we make sure our children are not at risk when they are taking public transport?
The Government is making a big push for more employers to allow their staff to work from home, or allow for flexible hours so that there will be fewer commuters taking public transport during peak periods.
MOE is also considering suggestions from parents’, such as staggered hours and other measures for older students, to help reduce commuter traffic volume.
READ: Returning Singapore residents from UK, US to serve stay-home notices at hotels
Q: Should my children be on leave of absence if I travelled during the holidays without them?
No. Your children will not need to serve a leave of absence if you travelled but not them. You are not infected, nor did you come into contact with someone infected. While there is a possibility that you may have come into contact with someone who is infected, your children are in contact of a possible contact. Hence, with the risk of infection being low, it is not necessary for your children to be on leave of absence.
Q: Will schools be closed eventually?
The government is watching the current COVID-19 situation very closely. If there is the need to suspend schools as a part of a greater safe distancing measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Singapore, MOE will move to home-based learning or some form of blended learning.
Parents will be given ample notice in advance should the need for schools to be closed arise.
Sharing the responses on his Facebook page, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said his ministry understands the concerns of parents.
“The Government is making a big push for more employers to allow their staff to work from home, or allow for flexible hours. So there will be fewer people on our transport systems during peak periods, and hence less risk of infection.”
He also said his ministry is “actively considering: suggestions by parents on staggered hours and other measures for older students, to help reduce commuter traffic volume.
“But do bear in mind how the virus is transmitted. By touching your face, or through prolonged exposure to an infected person, such as talking to him at close range for a long time. So cutting down on conversations on public transport, and washing your hands before and after your journey and not touching you face will go a long way,” said Mr Ong.