Minister for Education, Ong Ye Kung, has taken to Facebook (FB) to answer questions raised by parents in relation to the resumption of school when the circuit breaker measures in Singapore ease. Some parents were concerned that schools were reopening too early and wanted to inquire as to whether or not returning to school could be made voluntary.
On this, Ong had said that keeping children away from schools would “not guarantee” that they would be safe from the corona virus because family members would still have to attend work and “a large proportion of transmission to children had been from their family members”.
How does this match up with the insistence by his colleagues such as Lawrence Wong who had said that it was “important to realise and recognise that we are dealing with two separate infections” — one rising among migrant workers, and a more stable situation among the rest of the population? A later update, shared by the minister on Facebook, separated migrant worker cases from imported and community cases”
The government has appeared keen to stress the difference between migrant worker infections and community spread. But looking at what Ong has said about infections between family members who are out and about, is he tacitly saying that the separation between the two lines of infections are somewhat artificial?
Of the recent cases, one of the Singaporeans infected was a 24-year old man, Case 27603, who works at the CDPL Tuas Dormitory. While he had reported an onset of symptoms on 10 May, he continued going to work at the dormitory before his test came back positive on 16 May. This is the second known case of a Singaporean linked to this dormitory cluster. The first was a 48-year old man, Case 24831, who was confirmed to be infected on 12 May.
In addition, we now have another two cases of Singaporeans linked to dormitory clusters. Case 29563 worked at Jurong Penjuru Dormitory and Case 29743 at Cochrane Lodge II. Both are isolated dormitories. Four other family members of Case 29743 are also infected and linked to the Cochrane Lodge II cluster.
Looking at how the above cases have been transmitted in conjunction with Ong’s statements, perhaps it might be time for the government to start looking at the number of cases in Singapore holistically as opposed to attempting to differentiate between community spread and migrant worker infections.
If Ong cannot guarantee the safety of our children because family members are going to work, then clearly, there is spillover and there is no point in the government glossing over that.