With the onset of the Wuhan coronavirus across Asia, Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) spoke to medical experts on Wednesday, January 29, to determine if school reopenings across the country should be delayed.
However, the ministry said that they do not see the need to postpone it because there are no cases that suggest the virus is currently spreading in the Singapore community.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s education ministry has ordered a delay in school openings as an effort to prevent any outbreaks in schools.
Singapore reopened its schools on Wednesday after the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Ours is a different situation compared to Hong Kong’s
In their released frequently asked questions post about the virus, the MOE said Singapore’s virus situation is different from Hong Kong.
They cited that Hong Kong is nearer to mainland China and the epicentre in Wuhan is closer to the country.
As a result, there is a high likelihood that there are more numbers of students and school personnel in Hong Kong that came from mainland China.
From the Ministry’s analysis regarding student and staff numbers coming back from China to Singapore, they said they can manage these numbers to prevent any potential risks.
They will also give these individuals a 14-day compulsory leave of absence, which will allow the school to reopen and at the same time, allow affected students and staff time to conduct precautionary measures before rejoining the school.
This move will be applied to all MOE schools from kindergarten to polytechnics. The Institute of Technical Education and the Millennia Institute will also enforce the move to reduce risks of the virus spreading to their communities.
More than 800 students are impacted by LOA
Although the MOE has yet to release full numbers of students and staff affected by the compulsory LOA, it is suggested that around 800 students or more are covered.
The LOA is one of the ministry’s preventive measures to stop any outbreaks from occurring and asked that those under this status be “socially responsible” and self-quarantine to stop the virus from spreading.
They are to adhere to certain restrictions such as:
- Staying at home and avoid going out as much as possible
- Always be contactable
- Avoid having visitors
- Avoid direct contact with others including family members living under the same roof
- Take their temperature regularly and monitor their health
Students who fall under the LOA can keep up with their studies through the home-based learning plan the MOE will be releasing. Hiring a tutor is generally a bad idea if you’re under LOA, as you might pass the virus to the tutor. During these 14 days, you should encourage your child to embrace self-learning at home instead.
The MOE also added that students and school staff who did not travel to China but had relatives who came home from the mainland don’t have to worry about the LOA. Precautionary measures are advised, as well as good hygiene practices.
On the 15th day, if the student is healthy and did not exhibit any signs and symptoms of the virus-like fever, flu or cough, he can return to school.
Designating university dorms as government quarantine facilities
Aside from the LOA, the ministry also answered questions regarding their directive to use university dorms as temporary government quarantine facilities. These facilities are as follows:
- Prince George’s Park Residence – National University of Singapore
- Graduate Hall 1 – Nanyang Technological University
- Block 83 Prinsep Street – Singapore Management University
The Ministry said that these facilities are actually included in the Government’s contingency plan for any disease outbreak as temporary quarantine areas.
However, they will only be used if any student from any MOE-affiliated school or institution is required to undertake a quarantine period check and do not have good accommodations.
Students who are under quarantine orders are ordered to stay in their rooms throughout their quarantine. They also cannot go to any common facility in the quarantine facility. They will not be allowed to see visitors and all their needs will be delivered to them by trained medical staff.
MOE’s minister Ong Ye Kung shared in his Facebook post regarding the issue that a special multi-ministry task force is set up to monitor the situation regarding the virus.
They will also be the ones to adjust the country’s measures against the virus if there is a change in the situation.
What about Tuition Centres and Enrichment Centres?
These premises are private entities and not under the purview of MOE. However, the ministry has strongly encouraged education businesses to follow in MOE’s lead and take necessary precaution.
Nullspaces who runs coding and robotics enrichment classes are deferring classes for their students who returned from China or have come into contact with relatives who visited China.
SmileTutor is the largest home tuition agency Singapore in matching home tutors to students. It has sent advisory articles to give tips to parents and tutors on how to stay protected and is actively involved in ensuring both parties are not under LOA or been to China recently before matching them.
Do the Right Thing and Act Responsibly
As of February 1, Singapore has 18 confirmed cases of patients who contracted the Wuhan coronavirus.
The two newest cases are Singaporeans who were in Wuhan, one of them was evacuated out of the epicentre of the virus outbreak. The Ministry of Health confirms that it is currently working on contact tracing anyone who came in contact with these patients.
MOE urge all students and teachers to be open and honest in their travel history typically if they have visited China in the past 14 days. If anyone is feeling unwell during this period, they should see a doctor immediately.
With the ongoing race to determine how to stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, the actions of the Singapore Ministry of Education shows that we do not need to panic just yet about Singapore experiencing a similar rate of an outbreak like in China.
The government is at hand and monitoring the situation. Several preventive measures are also in place to keep everyone safe. Stay calm for you and your family and make sure everyone knows how they can protect themselves from this virus.
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