Decision to reopen schools based on scientific evidence: Ong Ye Kung, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Decision to reopen schools based on scientific evidence: Ong Ye Kung

This article is more than 12 months old

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung responded to parents' concerns about schools reopening today, citing scientific evidence, extra precautions and a desire to reduce disruptions as key considerations in allowing students to resume classes.

His Facebook post yesterday came after Singapore announced it would bar all short-term visitors from entering or transiting through the country from 11.59pm today, to reduce the risk of imported coronavirus cases.

Mr Ong said: "Part of the reason for the tougher border measures is to ensure we keep Singapore as safe as possible, so that daily activities, like going to work, eating out and attending school, can go on."

He said he had received many messages from parents, with some asking why the March holidays were not extended.

Others, including several students, urged the Ministry of Education (MOE) to keep schools open as they would like to go to school, he added.

Setting out MOE's thinking on the matter, he said Covid-19 does not affect the young as much as it does adults - echoing remarks made by Professor Dale Fisher, chair of the World Health Organisation's Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. "Neither is there evidence to show that the young are vectors or spreaders of the virus," Mr Ong said.

"The reverse appears to be the case, where the young get infected by adults at home."

None of the students in Singapore who contracted Covid-19 caught it in school, he added.

"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," Mr Ong said.

The minister also said closing schools would disrupt the lives of many people, particularly parents who have limited childcare options.

Various measures will help keep students safe, he said, pointing to the Government's existing leave of absence and stay-home notice policy, as well as checks on people's travel history at school gates, which will be done as an extra precaution.