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Covid-19: Before eventual reopening of preschools, about 30,000 staff to take swab test

SINGAPORE — About 30,000 staff members at preschools will be required to take a one-time swab test for Covid-19 from Friday (May 15) before preschools reopen, the Early Childhood Development Agency (Ecda) said on Thursday.

Preschool children being checked by teachers at My First Skool in Buangkok Crescent on Jan 28, 2020.

Preschool children being checked by teachers at My First Skool in Buangkok Crescent on Jan 28, 2020.

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SINGAPORE  — About 30,000 staff members at preschools will be required to take a one-time swab test for Covid-19 from Friday (May 15) before preschools reopen, the Early Childhood Development Agency (Ecda) said on Thursday.

In response to queries from TODAY, an Ecda spokesperson said those tested will include principals and teachers as well as non-teaching crew such as cleaners and cooks.

After preschool services fully resume, Ecda will also consider a “risk-based testing system” to protect children and staff members, the spokesperson added. The date for the resumption of preschool has not been confirmed.

In a circular seen by TODAY, Ecda’s chief licensing officer Jamie Ang said that the swab tests would be done by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) between Friday and May 26 at “designated sites”.

The move to roll out the swab tests comes after National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in a ministerial statement in Parliament on May 4 that testing for Covid-19 would need to be stepped up, with a nationwide testing strategy being developed.

Ecda also said that testing and monitoring would be stepped up, especially in settings with priority groups such as seniors and children, to reduce the risk of transmission when services resume.

The spokesperson added: “We recognise that these precautionary tests will bring inconvenience to preschools and staff, and seek their understanding and support to safeguard the health and well-being of our preschool community.”

The tests are one of the precautionary measures that have been progressively scaled up since late January for preschools.

These include “travel declarations from all staff, children and visitors, tighter and more frequent health checks, suspension of large group and communal activities, and restriction of visitors”.

Other safe distancing measures and the wearing of masks by preschool staff members and children who are two years and older have also been put in place.

Ecda said it would provide further updates on the approach for the reopening of preschools later.

Parents of preschool children told TODAY that having preschool employees take swab tests was reassuring.

Marketing manager Fiona Ng, who is in her 30s and has twin daughters in Kindergarten Two, said: “It is a good initiative because it is uncertain whether the grown-ups in school have interacted with people who might have the virus, but do not have the symptoms.”

She added that instead of simply testing everyone once, regular swab tests could be done once preschools reopen until the Covid-19 situation stabilises.

Counsellor Nicole Tham, 32, who has a three-year-old daughter in Nursery Two, said it was a good move given the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in countries such as Germany after safe distancing measures were relaxed.

“This Covid-19 virus situation is quite scary and is taking longer than expected for it to clear. Once schools open, we never know it might come back again in a second wave and we will go back to square one.”

Preschool teacher Fatin Namirah, 24, agreed that parents might feel reassured about the swab tests, but said that some parents have been concerned about their children needing to wear masks.

“If work resumes, people might need to wear a mask all the time and… parents were worried about their children having to put on a mask on a daily basis, as it is going to be difficult.”

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Covid-19 coronavirus preschool swab test

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