The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic as of 11 March 2020. A pandemic refers to a worldwide epidemic—it crosses international boundaries and affects a large population.
Continuous surge in coronavirus infection cases both globally and locally could leave the public with feelings of uneasiness, and more so for parents with school-going children.
This can be observed with the recent case of a preschool teacher that was among the newest confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Singapore. The preschool had to be shut down for two weeks.
Despite so, there is no intention for Singapore to enter DORSCON Red, according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a recent update on COVID-19. While baseline measures such as social distancing and practising good personal hygiene have to be adhered to in preventing further transmission, there are still concerns that could overwhelm some parents.
Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) released by the Ministry of Education (MOE) that parents with school-going children must know and could find useful.
Important Covid-19 FAQs for Parents With School-going Children
COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic. What are the measures MOE is taking?
According to MOE, there are added precautionary measures implemented that include:
- Daily temperature checks
- Intensifying cleaning routines and environmental hygiene in schools
- Staggered recess times to reduce unnecessary exposure
- Suspension of large group and communal activities such as assemblies, camps and mass celebrations
- All inter-school and external activities to be suspended temporarily until the end of March holidays
- School-based CCAs and after school programmes are kept to a minimum in smaller groups (assessed on a case-by-case basis if they should be held)
- Above all else, MOE will review their measures and closely monitor the situation
I’m very worried about the rise in cases affecting my child. Can I be assured that there will be no infection in school?
It would be overconfident to commit to saying that there will be no infection amongst students or staff. Parents—and everyone—have the right to know the honest answer.
Even if all schools are closed, there could be a possibility of contracting the infection from other sources, whether from strangers or family members. If there comes to a stage of a wide community spread, there is no guarantee that students are safe as there are already few cases of students and staff who were tested positive of COVID-19.
Even so, schools will still uphold their promise to maintain a safe environment for all.
Covid-19 FAQs for Parents: should my child be wearing a mask? | Photo: iStock
What if there is a confirmed case in school? Would classes be suspended?
Classes will be suspended for a day to thoroughly clean and disinfect the school premises as soon as possible. In the event it has been assessed that no transmission has occurred, classes will resume.
I have noticed some students and staff wearing masks in school despite having flu-like symptoms. Why are they not sent home?
Schools have implemented precautionary measures to safeguard the well-being of students and staff that includes a daily temperature-taking conducted.
In the event a student or staff experience a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher or have flu-like symptoms (cough, runny nose, shortness of breath), the school will contact the parents to ask that he/she be taken to see a doctor. They should also rest at home until they have recovered.
I want my child to put on a mask. What are the guidelines in school for that?
Schools do not encourage wearing of masks as the child needs to take special precautions when putting on or changing of the mask to avoid accidental touching of the face, increasing the risk of exposure. However, there are still some who feel strongly about this matter, hence will not be disallowed to do so.
My child was sent home even though he was not feverish. How are schools assessing if a child is unwell? What is the standard practice across schools?
Schools will conduct daily temperature-taking exercises and in cases of an anomaly such as a child experiencing a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher, the school will contact the parents to ask that he be taken to see a doctor. Other flu-like symptoms such as cough and runny nose are also taken into consideration. If present, parents will be advised to bring him to see the doctor.
There are also times when a child may inform his teacher that he is unwell, even though he may not be running a fever or showing symptoms.
Covid-19 FAQs for Parents for school-going children. | Photo: iStock
I don’t think what MOE is currently doing is foolproof in protecting my child. Is there more that can be done for our kids?
No measure is 100% foolproof or guaranteed, but MOE is taking the required steps to manage risks so that everyone can carry on with their lives normally.
While the virus itself is concerning, fear-mongering itself could lead to disastrous outcomes. A good way to protect ourselves and our kids is to be resilient as a society; stay vigilant and calm, stay cooperative and be socially responsible.
An important reminder for parents: ensure your child washes his/her hands regularly with soap and water as it is one of the most effective measures, and do not touch the face.
My child attends tuition and enrichment classes. Do these precautionary measures by MOE apply?
Tuition and enrichment centres are private entities. Nevertheless, it is strongly advised for your child to exercise the same responsibility and take reference from the measures MOE has instituted.
My child still attends CCA. What if it is a pool-based CCA, such as swimming or Water Polo?
It is generally safe to go swimming during this period.
According to Dr Leong Hoe Nam, infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, water as well as the chlorine within swimming pools will help to kill the virus. The only consideration to note is the mingling with others outside the swimming pool.
However, it is announced by MOE that pool-based CCAs that require students to travel to swimming pools outside of their school compound, such as Swimming, or Water Polo, and programmes like SwimSafer, will be suspended.
Photo: iStock | Covid-19 FAQs for Parents
My child is on LOA. Will I be able to go to work?
If you are in contact with persons with LOA, you are not required to be on LOA as well. LOA is simply a precautionary measure issued to people who are healthy. In the event you or your child are unwell, seek medical assistance immediately.
What is the difference between a Leave of Absence (LOA) and Stay-Home-Notice (SHN)?
Apart from Leave of Absence (LOA), the Ministry of Health (MOH) has introduced Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) as a new precautionary measure for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning to Singapore with travel history to the following areas:
- Mainland China (except Hubei), within the last 14 days with effect from 18 February 2020 11.59pm;
- Iran (Latest), Northern Italy* and Republic of Korea within the last 14 days, with effect from 4 March 2020 11.59pm.
Compared to an LOA, persons issued with a SHN are kept on a stricter regime—and will be required to remain in their place of residence at all times during the 14-day period. It is unlike an LOA where persons are allowed to leave their homes briefly to purchase daily necessities or attend to important personal matters.
What happens if my child does not comply with the Stay-Home-Notice (SHN)?
Students who are found to have breached their SHN will be subject to disciplinary actions from their schools and institutions.
They may also be prosecuted under Section 21A of the Infectious Diseases Act. Permanent Residents (PRs), Dependent Pass (DP) or Student Pass (STP) holders may also have Re-Entry Permits, DP or STP revoked or shortened.
My child is placed on SHN. Will he or she miss out in terms of progress?
Students will be kept updated and supported by their form teachers with their school work which include making phone calls to the students to check on their physical and emotional well-being, apart from studies.
Other assistance from the school include:
- Helping students to adjust back to the school routine
- Follow up by school counsellors to assist with students who may require further support
- Schools will plan and implement a home-based learning programme to best suit the lessons and needs of students
- e.g. informing students on specific pieces of homework or readings from textbooks
- If necessary, students will receive hard copy packages on materials needed for subjects such as Art
- Students will be given access to online materials in the Singapore Student Learning Space or the Learning Management Systems and teachers will monitor their progress through these platforms
While COVID-19 could be unsettling for some parents—if not all—especially when it comes to the safety of one’s own children, a fortunate thing is that it is a “pandemic that can be controlled”, according to the World Health Organisation.
It is important to stay positive during this crucial period and to practise the necessary in order to minimise the risk of transmission. We urge all to keep safe during then—we can do this together.
Also read: Covid-19 FAQs for Parents
WHO Declares COVID-19 Coronavirus A Pandemic: Here’s What Parents Need To Know
Activities You Can Do at Home During the March Holidays—If You’re Staying In Because of The COVID-19 Outbreak
Nutritionist Warns Of Increased Snacking When Ordering Food Online Due To COVID-19