At the moment, the Ministry of Education (MOE) believes the decision to delay the opening of schools is unnecessary as there was no current evidence of the coronavirus being spread throughout Singapore, unlike Hong Kong where opening of schools after Chinese New Year has been postponed by a week or two.
MOE shared that it had requested advice from medical experts, following the Wuhan pandemic, for consideration of whether to delay the opening of schools.
The Ministry affirmed in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on its website that the circumstances are totally different as Hong Kong is nearer to the epicentre of the outbreak and the number of students and staff returning from mainland China is likely to be a lot higher in Hong Kong as compared to Singapore.
On hindsight, the MOE says that the number of students and staff returning to Singapore from China is manageable. Additionally, the 14-day leave of absence which is granted to individuals with travel history to China within the last two weeks as a quarantine period is good enough to minimize the risks of potentially contracting the virus.
This decision to allow schools to reopen would enable the school authorities and students to carry out schooling activities which is an important aspect of safeguard during emergency situations.
The said decision would apply to MOE kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, special education schools, as well as junior colleges and polytechnics. It also includes Millennia Institute and the Institute of Technical Education.
The Ministry FAQ also addressed the issue of students and staff on leave of absence. It reiterated that students on leave of absence should follow their home-based learning plan closely to continue with their learning.
The FAQ also stressed that the leave of absence does not apply to students and staff who have not traveled to China recently, but had only relatives from China visiting them.
As a precaution, MOE added that those who are in close proximity with individuals on leave of absence should closely monitor their health and adopt good hygiene practices. At the same time, those who feel unwell should seek medical assistance.
However, netizens were quick to express their anger and frustration on this recent decision of MOE.
Commenting on The Straits Times , majority of online users expressed their anger and frustration. Many of whom demanded to know the details given by the so called “experts”.
Facebook User Cheah Kok Keong highlighted that despite going through the article, he could not find the source behind the acclaimed experts. He went on to question who exactly these experts are and what is their background.
A number of online users also slammed the experts’ as they failed to understand that prevention is better than cure, urging the Government to be proactive. They explained that keeping the children at home will ensure their safety more rather than having them to contract the coronavirus at school.
In fact, many of them stated that they have not allowed their kids to attend school for the sake of their safety.
This is reflected in online user Ophelia Lee’s comment.
“I can understand the mommies worries. Men only talk. They won’t be the one to look after the kids if anything happens. Some mommies are working mommies too”.
This comment received support from other concerned netizens as well.
Online user Lai Yin Lee explains that teachers at school allow students to return home if they are experiencing symptoms such as sore throat. The netizen questioned how the school could confirm that those who have recently visited China do not carry the virus here.
Facebook online users, Johnson Lau and Teck Heng Koh, believe that the extended Chinese New Year holidays could always be deducted from the subsequent school holidays throughout the year.
However, netizen Annette Elizabeth Phua argues otherwise. She does not think that it would be a good idea to swap the holidays, as some parents pre-book their holidays in advance.
MOE’s claim of not having sufficient evidence to prove that the coronavirus is transmittable throughout Singapore has received considerable backlash by online Facebook users.
P Richard Cornel questioned why there is a need for evidence to prevent something inevitable from happening.
At the same time, some argued that the government seems to be putting politics ahead of public safety just like in employments issues where it allows Foreign Talent (FT) to enter first and only to exercise control later. While others ask how the government could be sued in the event their children are infected with the coronavirus.