On Wednesday (25 March) noon, 73 new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in Singapore. This is the highest daily increase of confirmed infected cases reported since the virus hit the country in January this year.

Of this, 18 of the confirmed cases were linked to a new cluster at PCF Sparkletots Preschool at Fengshan Blk 126. 14 of the cases are staff at the preschool, and four (Cases 521, 566, 567, and 572) are family members of Case 601.

As such, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) announced that all PAP Community Foundation (PCF) centres across the island will be closed from today (26 March) to Sunday (29 March) in order to carry out disinfestation process on the premises as well as to “review and reiterate” COVID-19 precautionary measures with the staff.

The Fengshan branch had already been shut from 24 March to 7 April after a nursery 2 teacher from the preschool had been tested positive for the deadly coronavirus on 23 March and a few other staff were later found to be symptomatic.

“As she was last present in the centre on March 18 and was well at the time, ECDA and MOH (Ministry of Health) decided that there was no need to close the centre, but instead allowed the centre to close for a day for thorough cleaning and disinfection,” said an ECDA spokesman.

However, after more staff had reported to be not feeling well, the closure was extended. On Wednesday, 13 more staff at the centre, including non-teaching staff as well as the centre’s principal, were tested positive with the virus.

Initially, the principal was well while at work on 17 March, but she later developed symptoms in the afternoon, ECDA said. She also conducted a meeting with her staff and went for a course with other preschool staff in the evening.

“The principal saw a doctor the next morning on March 18 and was on medical leave until March 20. Most of the other staff who tested positive began developing symptoms from March 20 and over the weekend,” added ECDA.

Additionally, four of the principal’s family members were also tested positive with the virus on 23 and 24 March, despite not staying with her. MOH is currently conducting contact tracing.

In addition to the closure, MOH also said that all children and staff who were present at the centre between 16 and 24 March were placed under quarantine.

“ECDA is closely monitoring the situation, and working with the management, staff, parents and children at PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Fengshan Blk 126 to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all,” the agency said.

Ever since the first positive case of the novel coronavirus was detected in Singapore in January, ECDA said that it had been working closely with preschool operators to implement precautionary measures like restricting visitors, suspend large group and communal activities as well as excursions and field trips, health checks, and increase temperature screening for all teachers and children.

It added that staff were also urged to get immediate medical attention and don’t come to work if they feel unwell.

“The precautionary measures that have been put in place in preschools are only effective if the preschool community works together and exercises social responsibility. All preschool staff and children who are unwell should seek immediate medical attention and return to school only when fully recovered,” said ECDA.

Parents received apology letter from PCF

Following this incident, PCF has sent out an apology letter to all parents which was viewed by TODAY. In the letter, the agency stated that preliminary investigations revealed that the staff went to work despite not feeling well.

“We are sorry for what has happened. It is regrettable that measures put in place to safeguard the well-being of children and staff were not strictly followed in that centre. We will do a comprehensive review of what happened in this case and take appropriate actions,” said the letter.

It added that it takes the responsibility of caring for its children “very seriously”, and it will continue to suspend all non-essential visits, large group activities, and excursions even after the preschools reopen its doors on 30 March.

“As part of the daily health screening process, all of our centres have been directed to ensure that children and staff will not be allowed to enter the centre if they show any signs or symptoms of being unwell,” said PCF, adding that every child and staff is closely monitored during the day.

If that’s not all, PCF chief executive Victor Bay said in a media statement that the foundation was “deeply sorry to all parents whose children are enrolled with PCF for the inconvenience caused by the closures”.

He went on to add that an internal inquiry community will be formed to look into the matter, “with a view to taking appropriate staff disciplinary action where warranted”.

While all PCF centres are currently closed, Mr Bay said that the foundation will engage professional cleaning agencies to disinfect, sanitise, and deep-clean the centres. It will also “conduct refresher training on health, hygiene and safety practices for our staff”, he noted.

“We will also review our SOPs (standard operating procedures) to identify any gaps and tighten processes to ensure full compliance,” he added.

Ministers say shutting down of schools not necessary

Separately, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post on Monday (23 March) that his Ministry’s decision to reopen schools after the March holidays was due to scientific evidence, taking extra precautions, and a goal to reduce disruptions.

Laying out the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) decision to reopen schools but with more precautionary measures, Mr Ong said that scientific evidence revealed that the deadly COVID-19 does not affect young individuals as much as it does on adults. In fact, evidence shows that young people are not the spreader of the virus, and they themselves get infected by adults at home, the Minister said.

He also went on to state that only a number of students were infected with the virus, and all of them “caught it outside of their schools.”

“In this context, it may not be a bad idea for our children to spend the bulk of their day in school, where lessons and activities are arranged such that they mingle only with their classmates, who are less susceptible to the virus than adults,” he noted.

However, his Ministry’s decision to reopen schools on Monday received massive backlash from the public. The majority of the netizens expressed their frustration and slammed Mr Ong’s explanation.

Besides that, online petition was also set up on Charge.or urging Mr Ong to close all schools in order to avoid children contracting the deadly virus.

Separately, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said on 13 March 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.

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.

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

舆论:王瑞杰应许的好工作都去了哪?

作者:Augustine Low 在2020大选前,副总理王瑞杰,承诺政府将会投入更多心力在不仅仅是制造工作机会,而是提供更好的工作给新加坡人。 他再三重复诺言,如最近一次是在上周日,坚称新加坡与其他国家的双边协议时,不会剥夺新加坡人的就业机会。反之,也在国内制造更好的就业机会。 王瑞杰从未有一次是提供实证数据与证据支持他的说法,甚至没有要解释所谓“更好的工作”的意思。是要给出高薪工作?防裁员的工作?而这些工作又仅限哪些行业? 相反,最近几周内,我们反而看见一些新加坡人面临的不公平聘雇事件;还有退休银行家和高管,揭发银行行政管理工作由外籍人士所担任,或是我们自己的主权财富基金淡马锡控股,高层也不乏外籍人士所。 种种事实迫使王瑞杰必须再三重申他的立场,即新加坡的开放政策和贸易协定如CECA,是否真的有做到为新加坡人提供更好的工作机会。在没有任何实证数据和证据的支持下,又该如何希望人民能够接受此一断言? 更好的工作机会VS大量的外籍人士 我们也不断接收到自相矛盾的信息。昨日,当总统哈莉玛强调新加坡劳动力经由我国强而有力的教育系统的训练下,已有足够的能力与世界各地的人才竞争。 如果事实如此,为何又有大量的外籍人士从我们身边夺走这些工作机会?像淡马锡控股的大企业,称他们必须以开放的态度在世界上寻求顶尖人才,执行首席官何晶甚至表示,从全球招揽人才是“必然”的经过。 试着与哈莉玛总统的声明连结,即称我们为“足够与世界人才竞争”的说法。显然,我们并没有先顾及到“自己人的后院”,新加坡人难道一定要到海外与世界上最优秀的人竞争吗? 最奇怪的立场莫过于贸工部长陈振声,他早前在国会时表示,“真正的人才是新加坡团队,包括新加坡人、英国人和其他外国人,才能与世界各国竞争,让新加坡同胞能够取得胜利,不仅是在新加坡,更能在全球站稳立场。…

New contractor employed by Foodfare at Whampoa was charged in court this year

It was earlier reported that after NTUC Foodfare took over the iconic…

Indonesia beefs up security following Makassar cathedral explosion and National Police headquarters attack

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia is intensifying security in places of worship and…