FAQs for COVID-19 Infection in Singapore

Updated on 24 Feb 2020, 08:15

Precautionary measures in schools

Keeping schools running

Leave of Absence (LOA) and Stay Home Notice (SHN)

Government Quarantine Facilities

 


 

With the suspension of large group and communal activities such as assemblies, camps and mass celebrations, why is SYF not cancelled?

To protect our students and staff against the spread of COVID-19, MOE has suspended:

  • inter-school activities to minimise mingling and mitigate potential risks when students gather in large numbers, and
  • external school activities, such as CCAs that are conducted at external/public venues with little control over exposure to crowds.

The SYF Arts Presentation (AP) and rehearsals will proceed as they take place in controlled spaces and do not involve the inter-mingling of students from different schools. Nonetheless, there will be strict safeguards in place. MOE will implement the following tightened measures during the AP and rehearsals:

  • The number of student participants per category will be capped at 60, to allow for meaningful student performance while maintaining the stepped-up measures.
  • The AP and rehearsals will be closed to the public, with no audience admitted.
  • The arrival of CCA groups will be staggered to ensure no mixing of students.

All venues will have strict safety management processes.

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Do I need to inform my child's school if my workplace has a confirmed case?

There is no need to inform the school if your workplace has a confirmed case unless it is you or someone in your immediate household who is a confirmed case. In addition, if you or a member of your household have been issued a quarantine order (QO) and your child is in MK/Primary School, you should also keep the school informed. Please continue to adopt good personal hygiene practices, and seek medical assistance immediately if you or your child are unwell.

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I notice some students and staff wearing masks in school, including those who display flu-like symptoms. If they are unwell, why are they not sent home? What are the guidelines for mask usage in school? Can my child wear a mask as an added precautionary measure in class?

Medical experts have said that there is no need to wear a mask if you are well. If you are unwell, you should see a doctor immediately and rest at home if you have been given a medical certificate. Schools have also implemented precautionary measures to safeguard the well-being of our students. Temperature-taking is conducted daily. If a child's temperature is 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.

There is generally no need to wear a mask as an added precautionary measure. Neither do we encourage this in our schools, especially as the child needs to take special precautions when putting on or changing of the mask to avoid accidental touching of the face. However, we understand some feel strongly about this, and we would not disallow if so.

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Why is MOE suspending public use of indoor school facilities?

MOE works with SportSG to make suitable sports facilities in schools, such as school fields and indoor school facilities, available for wider community use outside of school hours.

In light of the COVID-19 situation, MOE has stepped up on precautionary measures to protect students and staff, including efforts to ramp up cleanliness and hygiene in schools. Suspending public sharing of all indoor school facilities temporarily will allow schools the time and space to keep their facilities clean and ready for use by students and staff.

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Why didn’t MOE suspend public use of indoor school facilities earlier (i.e. DORSCON YELLOW), or when DORSCON was raised to ORANGE?

We did not immediately suspend general public sharing of indoor school facilities as these facilities were shared outside of school hours, hence there were no students mingling with the public. With schools intensifying their cleaning routines and environmental hygiene in DORSCON ORANGE, we decided to suspend the public sharing of indoor facilities temporarily, to allow schools the space and time to achieve and maintain a high standard of cleanliness.

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Why are the outdoor sports facilities such as fields still open to public use? Will sharing of these facilities be suspended too if the COVID-19 situation worsens?

We have kept outdoor sports facilities like fields and running tracks open for public use as these facilities have fewer touchpoints and surfaces that require cleaning compared to indoor facilities.

MOE will continue to review the public sharing arrangements for these outdoor facilities as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

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Why didn't MOE consider alternatives, such as partial (i.e. only close on Sundays) instead of fully suspending sharing of indoor school facilities?

Schools are bearing a much heavier daily workload to ensure a higher state of environmental hygiene to keep our students and staff safe. General public access to indoor facilities, even at a reduced frequency or volume, will still necessitate additional thorough cleaning. By suspending general public sharing of indoor facilities in schools, schools can better focus on keeping the school premises clean and ready for use by students.

MOE will continue to review the public sharing arrangements for these facilities as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

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When will the suspension on public use of indoor school facilities be lifted?

MOE will continue to review the public sharing arrangements for these facilities as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

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With the move to DORSCON Orange, what measures are MOE taking?

We have further enhanced our measures by suspending all inter-school activities and external activities until the end of the March school holidays. These include the National School Games and learning journeys. This is to help schools minimise prolonged exposure of students to the public and reduce intermingling of students across schools.

This is on top of the precautionary measures that are already in place to minimise congregation of students in large numbers. These include:

  • Suspension of large group and communal activities such as assemblies, camps and mass celebrations
  • Staggered recess times

School-based CCAs and after-school programmes should generally continue but in smaller groups. However, some school-based CCAs may have to be suspended if schools assess that they are not meaningful when conducted in smaller groups or given the space constraints in the school.

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Why is my child sent home when he does not seem to have a fever? How are schools assessing if a child is unwell? How is MOE aligning these practices across schools?

Schools conduct temperature-taking exercises daily. If a child’s temperature is 38 degrees Celsius or higher, the school will contact the parents to ask that he be taken to see a doctor. Schools also look out for other flu-like symptoms such as cough and runny nose, and will suggest to the student to see a 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. In these cases, we hope students and parents can all play their part and practise social responsibility by seeing a doctor first before coming to school. Students should return to school only when they have fully recovered.

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Will mass events involving staff and stakeholders, such as activities with Parent Support Groups and Alumni celebrations, continue? What measures will be put in place?

Mass events with staff and stakeholders, but not involving students, can continue. Schools will also put in place visitor management measures, such as temperature screening and travel declarations, to safeguard the well-being of participants. MOE will advise external organisers using our school premises to do the same and take the necessary precautions.

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Why implement the social distancing measures now?

We are constantly reviewing our measures to protect our schools and students, and update them based on the evolving situation and risk assessment. Before 4 February 2020, all of the confirmed cases were imported ones, with no local transmission. The announcement on 4 February by MOH of a few cases with no travel history to China marked a new phase of local transmission.

Hence, MOE decided to stop mass events in schools like assemblies and camps. Given that there is no evidence of community spread as yet, there is no need to stop mass events but we are taking precautions for vulnerable groups, such as pre-schools and school children.

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What MOE is doing is not fool proof. What more can we do to protect our students?

No measure is 100% fool proof or guaranteed, but we will take the necessary precautions to contain and manage the risks, while enabling life to go on.

There are two key threats we face in such an outbreak situation.

First is the virus itself. We have various measures based on medical evidence that are targeted at limiting its spread.

Second which is more insidious, is fear. It prevents us from doing the things we love to do and have to do. We must remember that to be deprived of our daily lives and activities – to study, learn, play, socialise with friends, visit places we like, help people in need – over a prolonged period will make life miserable for everyone and disrupt society.

In tackling fear, we must as a society be resilient. We should not let fear of the virus get the better of us and prevent us from going about our daily lives. We should stay vigilant and calm, cooperate as a society, do our part and be socially responsible. Some of the most effective measures are in our own hands – wash them regularly with soap and water, and keep them away from our faces so that we reduce the risk of infection to ourselves and our loved ones, help to contain the threat, while allowing life to go on as normally as possible.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Should we review the precautionary measures that are in place in our schools?

We review measures and closely monitor the situation constantly. We will take the necessary precautionary measures as the situation evolves. But we all can and should continue to do our part to protect ourselves by adopting good hygiene habits and practising social responsibility by seeking medical attention if we are unwell.

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Can schools provide hand sanitizers in all classrooms?

Personal hygiene is indeed important. But hand sanitizer is not necessary if we wash our hands thoroughly and regularly with soap. Some individuals may also be sensitive to sanitizers. Toilets in our schools and IHLs are well stocked with liquid soap. We will also be stepping up the cleaning of toilets to ensure they are clean.

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Do the precautionary measures by the Ministry of Education (MOE) also apply to tuition and enrichment centres?

Tuition and enrichment centres are private entities. Nevertheless, we strongly urge them to exercise the same responsibility and take reference from the measures MOE has instituted.

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Why not close schools when DORSCON was changed to Orange?

DORSCON Orange means we need to take more precautions, because there are now a few cases of community spread. In fact, many of the measures schools have taken are already DORSCON Orange measures.

Closing school will disrupt many lives. We don’t rule it out when required, but it is a major, major decision.

One thing to consider is that even if all students stay at home, there is no guarantee against infection. Lots of infections happen at home actually. It is also unrealistic to expect older kids to stay at home. They will go out and inter-mingle.

See this interesting article: https://www.mothership.sg/2020/02/japan-family-virus-experiment/

On the other hand, in schools, we have suspended large gatherings to reduce inter-mingling drastically. There is also a tight regime of personal and group hygiene. Should there be wide community spread, which we hope will not happen, schools can be one of the safest places in Singapore against the COVID-19 virus.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely, in the best interest of our students.

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Can schools be one of the safest place for students?

Staff and students are already on extra alert. We are calling on all our teachers and staff to help make this happen. Hygiene is a major determinant of risk of transmission, so personal and group hygiene standards have been raised. There is constant supervision (for the younger students) and reminders for all students to wash their hands properly and regularly, avoid touching their faces. As a group, students will clean up after use.

In terms of activities, we have scaled down all mass activities, to minimise inter-mingling.

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Can we be assured that there will be no infection in school?

We have posed ourselves this difficult question, which deserves an honest answer. We cannot ensure that there will not be any infection if we close all schools, neither can we guarantee that there will not be any infection by keeping schools open. If there is wide community spread, chances are some students may be infected. But we will certainly do our best to make schools one of the safest environments in that scenario.

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Even if schools are safe, how about the journey to and from school?

Our public transport operators will maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene too. But as commuters, we should also play our part. Remind your child to wash his or her hands with soap before the journey, and not to touch their faces. When they are in school, they will be reminded to wash their hands with soap again.

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Why are schools still continuing with CCAs and PE lessons?

Schools will take appropriate steps for CCAs and PE lessons to ensure that group sizes are small to limit any risk of transmission. We want schools to continue with as many of their usual learning and activities as possible. They are ready to step up their measures if need be.

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Will all swimming lessons be cancelled? What about pool-based CCAs, such as Swimming, or Water Polo?

All external school activities will be suspended until the end of the March school holidays. 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.

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Why not delay the opening of schools for 7 or 14 days, like what Hong Kong did?

We had considered this, took advice from medical experts, and concluded that it is not necessary to do so, because there is currently no evidence of widespread sustained community transmission.

Ours is a different situation compared to Hong Kong's. Hong Kong is closer to the epicentre of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and is closely connected to Mainland China. The number of students and staff returning from Mainland China are likely to be many times ours.

We assessed that the number of students and staff returning from China recently is manageable, and a 14-day Leave of Absence (LOA) will be more targeted, while allowing schools to open and life carry on as normally as possible, which is an important aspect to safeguard in an emergency situation.

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I heard of cases where students travelled to China and did not declare. How do we ensure that everyone does the responsible thing?

If you come across cases where the person didn’t declare his or her travel to China, do let the school know and they will follow up with checks. We had received some feedback on such persons, but upon further checks, we found that they had returned from China in Dec 2019. This is well over the incubation period, so the Leave of Absence (LOA) will not apply to them.

Since we announced the LOA measure, we have received more travel declarations as people return from the Chinese New Year public holiday. As of 29 Jan 2020, we have about 960 students and staff on LOA.

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If my child was in close contact with someone who is a confirmed case/on QO/SHN/LOA, would my child need to be on LOA as well?

Contact tracing will be conducted to identify close contacts of the confirmed cases, and MOH will alert you/your child if there is a need to be on QO. There is no need for your child to be placed on LOA if they are in contact with people on LOA/SHN. If there was a need for your child to be placed on LOA, your school would also get in touch with you. In all circumstances, please continue to adopt good personal hygiene practices, and seek medical assistance immediately if you or your child are unwell.

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What is Stay Home Notice (SHN)? How does the SHN differ from a Leave of Absence (LOA)?

MOH has introduced SHN as a new precautionary measure for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning to Singapore with travel history to mainland China (except Hubei) in the last 14 days. This took effect from 18 February 2020 11.59pm.

Persons issued with a SHN are on a stricter regime than those on LOA and will be required to remain in their place of residence at all times during the 14-day period. In comparison, those on LOAs are allowed to leave their homes briefly to purchase daily necessities or attend to important personal matters.

Students who fail to comply with the SHN will be subject to penalties based on the school's or institution's disciplinary frameworks. In addition to this, they may also be prosecuted under Section 21A of the Infectious Diseases Act. Foreign students may also have their Student Passes revoked.

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How will schools support students who are placed on SHN?

For school students placed on SHN, their form teachers will call them every day to check on their physical and emotional well-being, as well as support them with their school work. When students return from SHN, the school will continue to look out for them to ensure they are able to adjust back to the school routine. School counsellors will follow up with students who may require further support.

In terms of supporting students on their learning, it may involve a variety of methods. Schools will plan and implement a home based learning programme that best suits the lessons and the needs of their students.

For example, schools may inform their student on specific pieces of homework or readings from their textbooks. For subjects like Art, hard copy packages may be dropped off at the student's home by the school. Schools may also ask students to go through online materials in the Singapore Student Learning Space or the Learning Management Systems. Teachers will also be able to monitor the students' learning progress through these systems.

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Do staff/students on LOA/SHN need to produce certification that they are fit for duty from a doctor at the end of their 14-day LOA/SHN period?

No. Staff and students who have ended the 14-day LOA/SHN period without developing any symptoms do not need any certification from a doctor before resuming their normal activities. Schools also do not require these individuals to produce a doctor's note to allow them to return to the schools at the end of the 14-day period.

In all circumstances, please continue to adopt good personal hygiene practices, and seek medical assistance immediately if you are unwell.

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How are schools supporting students on LOA with their studies?

It involves a variety of methods; it need not be confined to e-learning or learning with computers. Schools will plan and implement a home based learning programme that best suits the lessons and the needs of their students.

For example, schools may inform their students on specific pieces of homework or readings from their textbooks. Sometimes, for subjects like Art, hard copy packages may be dropped off at the student’s home by the school. Schools may also ask students to go through online materials in the Singapore Student Learning Space or the Learning Management Systems. Teachers will also be able to monitor the students’ learning progress through these systems.

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I understand that primary school and MOE Kindergarten students who are close contacts of Persons Under Quarantine (PUQ) also need to observe a Leave of Absence (LOA). Why is this necessary?

The Home Quarantine Order (HQO) is issued to healthy persons who have recently returned from Hubei, and for those in close contact with a confirmed case. There may be young children living in the same household, and being young, they may be not be so aware of the precautions they need to take to protect themselves when staying with someone on HQO. So we have decided to take the step of issuing LOA to these young children as an additional precautionary measure. This will give their fellow students and parents added assurance.

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What if students or staff who are on LOA do not stay home, and move around in public areas?

There is a difference between an LOA and a Quarantine Order (QO).

A QO is served to healthy individuals who have a higher risk of exposure to the virus, such as someone who has close contact with an infected person. QOs have legal force, with severe penalties for non-compliance. Quarantine usually occurs in the home but can also be served in dedicated Government Quarantine Facilities (GQFs) or hospitals, should the individual not have suitable accommodation in Singapore.

An LOA is also issued to students and staff who are healthy, but have recently travelled to Mainland China. So it is a precautionary measure. Although LOAs are not legally binding, we strongly urge those on LOA to be socially responsible and comply with the LOA, to prevent possible transmission of infections.

The students and staff on LOAs are not required to stay at home and be isolated at all times. During the LOA, students and staff are expected to:

  • Remain contactable at all times
  • Remain in the place of residence as much as possible
  • Minimise visitors to the place of residence
  • Minimise time spent in public places and contact with others
  • Monitor their health and their temperature
  • (For Students) Follow their home-based learning plan closely to continue with their learning

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Are vendors, canteen staff, freelance coaches also covered under the LOA measure?

Yes. The LOA provisions cover teaching staff, non-teaching staff, such as administrators, and other non-school staff, including canteen vendors, security guards, KCare and Student Care Centre staff.

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How about students and staff who did not come back from China recently, but had relatives from China visiting them?

As explained earlier, the LOA is a precautionary measure. Like all precautionary measures, we have to decide how wide to cast the net. If we include those who have visitors from Mainland China, the same logic should apply to those whose friends or families have recently been to China. The net can grow exponentially wide. So we decided to apply the LOA directly to those who have visited China. Those who have close contact with people on LOA should closely monitor their health and adopt good hygiene practices. Those who feel unwell should seek medical assistance.

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What if students or staff do not declare their travel history?

We urge them to spare a thought for others and do so. Their friends and families, if they know about their travels, should also urge them to do so. All of us play a part in ensuring the safety and well-being of ourselves, our loved ones and our society. We should do the responsible thing and declare our travel history, and see a doctor if unwell.

Ultimately, we can only overcome this virus with the co-operation and public spiritedness of everyone in Singapore.

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Why do we allow university dorms to be designated as Government Quarantine Facilities (GQFs)? Will allowing this put the wider student population at risk?

Currently, there are three university hostels designated as Government Quarantine Facilities (GQFs) – designated blocks at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Prince George's Park Residences, Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Graduate Hall 1, and Singapore Management University's (SMU) Blk 83 Prinsep St. They have always been part of the Government's national contingency plan for a disease outbreak. We are getting them ready to be on standby, should the number of people served with QO goes up. The designated hostels will only be primarily activated when a student in our educational institutions or schools is required to serve QOs and does not have suitable accommodation.

Persons served QOs are required to stay in their designated rooms at all times within the allocated quarantine period. They are not allowed to use common facilities within the GQF. There will be no visitors, and food and all necessary supplies will be delivered to them.

There are also security measures in place to ensure compliance to GQF guidelines. All staff working at the GQF are also provided with personal protective equipment, such as masks, as advised by the Ministry of Health (MOH). GQFs also undergo rigorous cleansing and hygiene regimes according to MOH and National Environment Agency (NEA) guidelines. In other words, the persons will not be mingling with the larger population around them.

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