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Government directs S'pore States Times Facebook page owner to correct post about Covid-19 cases in schools

SINGAPORE — Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) office to issue two correction directions to Mr Alex Tan, owner of the Singapore States Times Facebook page. This is in relation to a post he made about Covid-19 cases in schools here.

Government directs S'pore States Times Facebook page owner to correct post about Covid-19 cases in schools

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) office said that statements made by the Singapore States Times falsely implied that there were at least 50 students and teachers who had been infected by Covid-19 as a result of transmissions in schools.

SINGAPORE — Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) office to issue two correction directions to Mr Alex Tan, owner of the Singapore States Times Facebook page. This is in relation to a post he made about Covid-19 cases in schools here.

The Pofma office said that the “false statement of fact” was shared by Mr Tan on his Facebook page, and it was asked to issue a targeted correction direction to Facebook.

The Singapore States Time had published a Facebook post on May 4 stating that “Education Minister Ong Ye Kung is responsible for numerous infections in schools after he refused to close down the schools. The schools were only closed on April 3, but at least 50 students and teachers were already infected”.

The Pofma office said in a media release that these statements falsely implied that there were at least 50 students and teachers who had been infected by the respiratory disease as a result of transmissions in schools.

It also laid out more clarifications on the issue in an article on Factually, a government fact-checking website.

The Factually article stated that as of April 3, 69 students and staff members in schools under the Ministry of Education (MOE), including the institutes of higher learning, were reported to have been infected with Covid-19.

Based on contact tracing and investigations by the Ministry of Health, all of the cases — apart from three that had no links to known sources of infection — were attributed to transmission via overseas travel, within households, social settings, and a non-school workplace.

“In short, none of the 69 infections were traced back to MOE schools, including the institutes of higher learning,” the article said.

The report reiterated that schools and teachers have put in “tremendous effort” to ensure that students can learn in a safe environment even before the implementation of full home-based learning.

“Precautionary measures (undertaken) included establishing new hygiene and cleaning routines for our students, fixed seating and assigned play areas, suspension of co-curricular activities, and placing (on leave of absence) students who are unwell, have a travel history, or who stay with family members who have a travel history,” it added.

Schools were later closed and students moved to full home-based learning from April 8, as part of the national circuit breaker measures for people to stay home and limits work and social activities.

Although students no longer attended school physically, the restrictions in place prevented them from moving around the community freely and exposing themselves to the coronavirus, the article said. 

It added that during this time, vulnerable students — as well as those whose parents work in jobs providing essential services — were allowed back in schools for “care and supervision with the necessary safe distancing measures in place”. These arrangements would continue during the May school holidays.

“If MOE had simply closed schools early, say, from Feb 2020, we would have disrupted lives significantly, and the impact on students from vulnerable backgrounds would have been immense,” the article stated.

“Instead, we have kept schools open as long as possible, while keeping our students safe.”

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Ong Ye Kung Pofma Singapore States Times Facebook schools Covid-19 coronavirus

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