Education Minister Explains Why Schools Are Not Closed Yet Despite COVID-19 Outbreak

Back in 2003, when SARS hit Singapore, schools were closed from 27 March 2003, and there were plans to reopen them by 5 April 2003. However, an outbreak in Singapore General Hospital (nani?!) extended the closure to 9 April 2003.

Of course, before you come to any conclusion, do note that it was our first battle against a major outbreak in Singapore, and we weren’t prepared. I mean, an outbreak in a hospital? That’ll certainly not happen now.

But anyways.

Over in Hong Kong, the authorities have closed all schools due to the COVID-19 outbreak since Chinese New Year, and it was announced yesterday that the closure will be extended to at least 16 March 2020.

And so you must be wondering: Why hasn’t Singapore closed all schools as well?

Because it’s not as easy as pressing a button.

Education Minister Explains Why Schools Are Not Closed Yet Despite COVID-19 Outbreak

There are now enhanced measures in schools to prevent an outbreak of the COVID-19; for a start, students no longer need to attend flag-raising together, but sing the national anthem in classrooms instead. There would be no assemblies as well, and recess times would be staggered.

Activities that involve many students to gather together will be cancelled or postponed as well.

But why not just close all schools instead, you ask.

Today, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung explained in Buzzfeed-style, listing down three main reasons why closing schools isn’t in the plans yet.

Firstly, with COVID-19 so contagious, infections can happen at home too. If a kid is in school, the chances of being infected at home by one of his or her family members would be reduced as a bulk of his time is spent in school.

Secondly, shutting down school might lead to students anyhowly going to other places, and getting infected elsewhere instead. He said, “So they will go out, which is good – you simulate a school environment, where it’s airy, you get out in the open, you exercise, you get under the sun, which raises their resilience and immunity. But at the same time they are also mingling in public spaces… In school, they are kept within this environment with a protocol, with teachers repeatedly reminding and bringing them to wash their hands, reminding not to touch their face…So today in school, it’s a much more regimented and cleaner environment.”

And the third reason is one that he said is “underestimated”, though that’s the first reason that comes to my mind.

It’s the disruption to parents’ and student’s lives. You see, a sudden closure means parents would have to make alternate arrangements to take care of the students. In addition, this disruption would instil fear—for all you know, if schools are announced to be closed, people in Singapore would even travel all the way to Mars to hoard daily essentials.

But the option is still on the table.

Mr Ong added, “We will consider and monitor the situation closely. As of now, I think we should keep schools going, but take extra precautions, as we have already done.”

According to the DORSCON level chart, when we’re at Red, there would be major disruptions, and one of which is school closures.

Image: Gov.sg

So let’s stay at Orange, and if possible, let’s go down to yellow.

Reader Bao: But Red means there would be work from home orders leh. That means we can work from home!

Mr Bao, would you rather have the option to work at home or the option of your company folding? Stop being a selfish fellow and go wash your hands now.

In the meantime, to stay updated, do bookmark MOH’s website here and opt in to Gov.sg WhatsApp service.

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