Coronavirus: Schools, kindergartens to reopen on Monday; students, staff who return from overseas from March 14 have to isolate for 14 days

Farrer Park Primary School pupils take turns to wash their hands before going for recess on Jan 7, 2020.
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

SINGAPORE - Despite the record number of 47 new Covid-19 cases announced on Wednesday (March 18), schools and kindergartens will reopen next Monday as planned with stricter measures, said the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Thursday.

The measures include requiring students and staff of schools, pre-schools and student care centres who were overseas during the school holidays from March 14 to serve a 14-day isolation period from the date of return, and schools suspending all co-curricular activities and getting students to sit further apart.

Pre-schools will do more frequent temperature screening for all staff and students.

MOE, MSF and ECDA made the announcement on Thursday morning amid wide speculation among parents and students that the one-week school holidays which began on March 14 will be extended.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post on Thursday: “Our priority must be to protect the education system and keeping students safe. By protecting the system robustly, it can remain open, and lives need not be disrupted. Otherwise, many parents, including those working in hospitals and providing essential services, will not be able to go to work.”

He acknowledged that students, parents and coaches may be disappointed or inconvenienced by the decision. 

He added: “I hate to have to do this, but it is critical that we protect the system, and keep everyone who has overseas exposure to the virus away from the school population. Then we can possibly return to the calm we enjoyed before the March school holidays. We need to do our best to maintain that.”

The ministries did not say how many students were overseas during the school holidays, but Mr Ong said in his post that “thousands of our students and their families have travelled overseas and have returned, or are now making their way back”.

On Wednesday, the multi-ministry task force set up to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak announced that of the 47 new cases, 33 were imported and 30 of them involved Singapore residents returning from abroad.

It announced that Singaporeans and residents returning to the country have to serve a 14-day isolation period, while people in the country should defer all travel overseas.

As more Singaporeans, such as students and workers, return home, the country has to be mentally prepared that numbers could remain high in the coming days, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force.

The rise in the number of infected cases on Wednesday and in recent days was a cause of concern for all, he said during a press conference on Wednesday.

"We cannot afford to take further risks if the number of imported cases continue to rise. That is why we're imposing additional border controls and travel restrictions."

ALSO READ: Covid-19: All-time high of 47 new cases in Singapore, 14-day stay-home notice will now apply to all returning residents and short-term visitors

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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