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Ong Ye Kung troubled by stories of Victoria JC students in uniform being ‘shunned’ and denied service in public

The first day back at school for students at Victoria Junior College after a teacher was recently confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus saw a 92% attendance rate, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (10 February).

In a Facebook post, Mr Ong said he visited the school to check in on the students and staff, adding that he was glad to see that attendance was at a “very normal” rate and the students in good spirits.

However, he explained that some students had shared how several members of the public have shunned students in school uniform, even going so far as to deny them service.

Mr Ong said, “This is not what we stand for in Singapore, and I’m sure the few don’t reflect the larger population.”

He told the students and staff that it is important to remember that how we treat affected people could be how the rest of the world treats Singaporeans. He stressed that there might be those who avoid Singaporeans simply because the country has confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection.

However, Mr Ong also said that he felt ‘cheered’ by the many students who expressed their desire for school to go on as long as possible, with precautions, and despite calls for schools to be shut down.

Mr Ong shared, “To them, this crisis is an opportunity for the school to rally together and show how the “Indomitable Victorian Spirit” triumphs. Likewise, if we all stick together, I’m sure our Singapore spirit will triumph over all.”

Teacher diagnosed with coronavirus

On Friday (7 February), the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that a 42-year-old Singaporean teacher was confirmed to be infected with the deadly virus, though she has no recent travel history to China.

The teacher became unwell on 2 February and was admitted to Parkway East Hospital three days later on 5 February. She was tested positive for the virus late in the day on 6 February before being transferred to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).

It was reported that she had not interacted with her colleagues or students after falling ill though she had visited Changi Airport and the Singapore Zoo.

Following her diagnosis, all staff and student who had been in recent contact with the teacher were placed on 14-days leave of absence. The school has also disinfected the staff room, panty and teaching rooms that the teacher used.

As an added measure, Victoria Junior College also suspended co-curricular activities for 14 days and will be conducting more tutorial-sized classes instead of large lectures.

Cases in Singapore so far

As of 10 February, MOH confirms that there are 45 cases of the coronavirus in Singapore, with several of them being locally transmitted and having no travel history to China. Test results for 39 suspected cases are still pending.

Of the 23 locally transmitted cases, MOH said that 15 cases are linked to three currently known clusters of infection—The Life Church and Missions Singapore, Yong Thai Hang, and the private business meeting held at Grand Hyatt Singapore from 20 to 22 January.

MOH did also announce that seven of the confirmed cases have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged. Another 38 cases are stable or improving while seven are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

MOH had advised the public to avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness, observe good personal hygiene, wear a mask if they show respiratory symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath, and to promptly seek medical attention should they begin to feel unwell.

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