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23 March 2020 - the school term fully resumed despite the current escalating COVID-19 crisis ensnaring Singapore (on this day itself, 54 new cases were confirmed by the Ministry of Health, amongst them a PCF Sparkletots teacher). Several precautionary measures were undertaken by the Education Ministry henceforth - these included mandating that teachers and students who recently returned from overseas trips serve a 14-day leave of absence, implementing exam-style seating in classrooms alongside safe distancing protocols at canteens and general play areas, as well as ramping up cleaning routines on school premises.

The day before, Education minister Ong Ye Kung also took to Facebook to proffer three main reasons surrounding the final decision to reopen schools. In his own words:

"Let me lay out MOE’s thinking on why school will open tomorrow, but with more precautionary measures. There are three key considerations.

First, science. With the virus being around for several months now, there is a body of scientific evidence showing that COVID-19 does not affect the young very much as compared to adults. Parents will be familiar with this concept, as this is the case for other diseases such as chicken pox.

Neither is there evidence to show that the young are vectors or spreaders of the virus. The reverse appears to be the case, where the young get infected by adults at home. This is the advice of Prof Dale Fisher, Group Director of Medicine at NUHS and Chair of the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.

......Second, disruption. Closure of schools will disrupt many lives, especially parents who are both working, with no domestic help, and have limited childcare options. We are particularly concerned about parents who are healthcare workers and providers of essential services.

Keeping our healthcare system strong is paramount in the fight against COVID-19. Our frontline warriors will be much more assured if their children are in school, meaningfully engaged, in a safe and healthy environment.

......Third, precautions. Notwithstanding that the young are more resilient to COVID-19, there is no place for complacency. We have consulted our healthcare experts and put in place many significant additional precautionary measures to safeguard the entire system, to maintain the calm situation we enjoyed before the March holidays."

Still, many netizens remain unimpressed, as clearly evidenced from how they took turns ripping into Mr Ong left, right and centre. An online petition calling for a complete closure of schools across the country which has since garnered more than 10K signatures bears further testament to the public uproar erupting over what has fast become a scorching hot potato. Anyways, provided herein is a non-exhaustive capture of the average Singaporean's sentiment:


By Le Gill:

"My kids have asthma. And I'm positive lots of other kids are asthmatic too. They suffer complications just from catching the common flu. My child was warded in the ICU for almost 2 weeks because he was infected with the rhinovirus (a common flu fyi). Contrary to what the minister seeks to suggest, not all kids are resilient! Bad decision putting children at risk and then deciding the subsequent course of action based on what happens next. Is "Safety First" merely a slogan as far as the authorities are concerned?"


By Voon Yee:

"I have seen primary students coughing vigorously during recess time. I have also seen other students who simply wiped mucus dripping from noses with their shirts!!!! I don’t think schools are really that safe!"

By Anand Thiagarajan:

"Truth be told, the science on COVID-19 and its associated virulence is evolving - children do get infected and they could contribute to the spread. Personally speaking, it is very difficult to assert with confidence that keeping schools open is the right thing to do in terms of infection control ( See: "Coronavirus looks different in kids than in adults" by The Washington Post). In fact asymptomatic or mildly ill kids might slip under the radar, thus causing new infections to transpire. The majority of affected nations allude to this possibility, hence they have closed or are in the process of closing schools as a demonstration of prudence. It’s about time that Singapore did the same."

A lot more at https://www.domainofexperts.com/2020/03/netizens-berate-education-minister-ong.html

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