S’pore to consider ordering school closures while neighbouring M’sia shuts down schools: National Development Minister Lawrence Wong

S’pore to consider ordering school closures while neighbouring M’sia shuts down schools: National Development Minister Lawrence Wong

Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, announced a restricted movement order last night (16 March) for his country which will be effective from 18 to 31 March 2020.

Under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967, there will be prohibitions of inbound and outbound travels as the border tightens in order to contain the spreading of Covid-19 within Malaysia.

Malaysians are not allowed to travel outside the country and the citizens who recently returned to Malaysia are required to undergo health checks and a 14-day self-quarantine.

According to the official announcement, all childcare centres, government and private schools, boarding schools, international schools and religious schools will be closed during the restricted movement order. Other than these premises, pre-universities and universities are closing as well.

The restricted movement order implies an extension of school holidays for another week and a half.

On 13 March, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong responded to questions in regards to school closures since the implementations of new measures to restrict travellers from coming to Singapore. An extended travel ban was applied to new travellers from Italy, France and Germany in the past two weeks.

Mr Wong mentioned that the government will not rule out school closures, however, they were still unclear about the effectiveness of school closure in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. They are still identifying the effectiveness of such measures before making any decisions, he said.

“We will not rule out (school closure) but we need to clarify… the effectiveness of school closures and how this would potentially break or slow down the transmission chain before putting in place a measure like that,” said Mr Wong.

As compared to the number of children getting infected by influenza, the number of children infected by Covid-19 is indeed lower. Nonetheless, Mr Wong emphasised that it is still unclear if the low number of infection among children is caused by mild and undetected symptoms, or if children are not prone to be infected.

“If it is the first reason, then we have reason to be concerned.”

He further supported this statement by explaining that children may pass on the virus to more vulnerable people like their parents and grandparents.

Additionally, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung had also stated that there is indeed a possibility to close schools if the situation worsens. According to Health Minister Gam Kim Yong, the government may step up measures which include school closures but it is still not the right time yet.

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