PE classes back in full swing as schools reopen

Schools reopened as planned yesterday, despite initial concerns that the haze could disrupt the start of the new term.

Classes were in full swing, including physical education (PE) lessons.

For example, at Hougang Primary School, pupils were pitching tents and scaling the outdoor adventure facilities, which are part of the school's PE curriculum.

They were also conducting science experiments outdoors.

Hougang Primary also used the opportunity to teach pupils about the haze and how it forms.

Schools across the island briefed their students on what to do if the situation worsens.

They will be sending out letters to parents about the Education Ministry's contingency plans, announced last Friday.

These include the possibility of closing all primary and secondary schools if the health advisory for the following day indicates that air quality will hit the hazardous level.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Sim Ann said during a visit to Hougang Primary that the ministry is not taking the improvement in the haze situation for granted.

The air quality was "good" yesterday, with the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index below 51 across the island.

Ms Sim said: "Our schools are well prepared with various contingency measures and they know what to do in case there is any further change in the air quality."

All schools have at least one air-conditioned room with an air purifier to temporarily accommodate students or staff who develop respiratory symptoms.

Teachers are aware of which students have ailments such as asthma, said Ms Sim.

If school closure is prolonged - two days or more, for example - the schools will continue teaching their students through e-learning.

Ms Sim added that parents should still make advance care arrangements, in case schools have to close.

"It just means that we are able then to put these plans in place much more smoothly," she said.

Parents who dropped their children off at school yesterday said they were not worried, as air quality has improved and contingency plans are in place.

But Madam Mong Yen Hui, who has a son in Primary 1 in New Town Primary School, said that she will also assess the situation on her own.

"If I feel that the air quality is bad, I may keep my son at home," said the 39-year-old project manager.

Meanwhile, the Government has indicated that it has no plans to roll back or stop its subsidy scheme for haze-related ailments.

It will continue to recruit more general practitioner (GP) clinics to be part of the programme, despite the improving situation, said Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor yesterday.

There are currently 643 GP clinics on the scheme.

Speaking to reporters after a visit to Northeast Medical Group's Simei clinic, she said that the programme will be in place "as long as is needed" because the haze period is not yet over.

"We will need to use this lull period to strengthen further our contingency plans and make sure that we are ready if the situation were to deteriorate," she added.

The scheme, which started on June 21, allows people to see a doctor for $10 if they are aged 18 and younger, 65 and older, or are on public assistance.

Last week, doctors saw fewer patients with haze-related ailments.

A spokesman for the Health Ministry said that an average of 3,453 people with these conditions visited a polyclinic every day last week - down from 3,853 in the week before.

Likewise, emergency departments in public hospitals are seeing fewer of such cases - with the daily average falling from 558 to 434 in the same period.

There were, however, more patients with "all conditions" at polyclinics - 15,999 last week compared with 15,921 the week before.

But emergency departments attended to fewer visitors each day.

The average number fell from 2,855 to 2,717 in the same period.

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