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Novel coronavirus: Scrapping school assemblies, field trips, communal activities among new precautionary measures

SINGAPORE — The authorities are implementing more precautionary measures in workplaces, schools, preschools and eldercare facilities to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. This is in light of Singapore’s first cluster of four locally transmitted cases on Tuesday (Feb 4).

Novel coronavirus: Scrapping school assemblies, field trips, communal activities among new precautionary measures

Schools in Singapore are suspending mass assemblies, cancelling school camps and staggering recess periods with immediate effect. There will be no mass flag-raising ceremonies from Feb 5, 2020.

SINGAPORE — The authorities are implementing more precautionary measures in workplaces, schools, preschools and eldercare facilities to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. This is in light of Singapore’s first cluster of four locally transmitted cases on Tuesday (Feb 4).

The measures include cancelling mass assemblies in schools, suspending excursions and a new advisory for all Singapore firms — especially for people who interact frequently with the public — to clean their workspaces more frequently.

The health authorities have also expanded their surveillance efforts to test all pneumonia patients in hospitals for the coronavirus, after tests confirmed the infection of a 28-year-old Singapore permanent resident with pneumonia but who had no recent travel history to China. The case is part of the cluster of four announced on Tuesday.

The four local transmissions are linked to a health product shop in Jalan Besar and are part of six new cases of the novel coronavirus in Singapore, bringing the total cases here to 24.

Ms Liew Wei Li, director of schools at the Ministry of Education, said: “As a result of these developments, the Government will be implementing additional precautionary measures in our schools and preschools because they are considered as vulnerable sectors.

“We will implement some social distancing measures,” she said. This means suspending mass assemblies, cancelling school camps and staggering recess periods, for example, and these will kick in immediately. There will be no mass flag-raising ceremonies from Wednesday.

Ms Liew said: “The aim is to circumscribe the intermingling of students by not conducting mass-level learning activities”.

The latest moves add to the required 14-day leave of absence that all students and school staff members have to take if they have just returned from China.

The heightened precautionary measures will also apply to eldercare facilities, including social services for vulnerable groups, residential facilities and day activity centres for the disabled.

In a Facebook post, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, said that large group and communal activities such as assemblies, excursions, field trips and mass celebrations will be suspended for preschools and eldercare centres. The frequency of temperature-taking for children and staff members will be stepped up as well.

“We seek the continued support and understanding of parents, preschool staff, our frontline colleagues, our partners and service users to mitigate the potential risks. My colleagues and I continue to monitor the situation closely and will implement further measures if necessary,” Mr Lee said.

HIGH-TRAFFIC AREAS

The Government and its tripartite partners have issued a general advisory to businesses and organisations to increase the frequency of cleaning in high-traffic premises such as food and beverage outlets, retail shops and hotels.

These are places that involve frequent contact with the public, Mr Aubeck Kam, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Manpower, said on Tuesday.

The advisory urged businesses to establish protocols and provide clear guidance to frontline employees, such as service staff members, to advise customers who are unwell or are showing flu-like symptoms.

“If it is necessary to provide urgent services to customers who are unwell, employers should also establish proper procedures to safeguard staff and other customers. For example, having frontline workers wear a surgical mask, and serving these customers separate from other customers,” the advisory stated.

Employees are advised to keep their workspaces clean, avoid contact with those who are unwell and to practise good personal hygiene.

Evidence so far suggests that the virus is likely transmitted mainly through contact with droplets from infected individuals, either directly or indirectly through hands that have come into contact with these droplets.

MORE TESTS FOR VIRUS

The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be testing all pneumonia patients who have been warded in its hospitals since last week for the coronavirus, as part of its expansion of surveillance efforts.

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, its director of medical services, said that the testing capacity is not going to be an issue. “We have sufficient capacity to test these individuals and those who come on as suspected cases further downstream as well.” 

Referring to the cluster of four cases linked to a Chinese tour group who visited the Jalan Besar shop, MOH said that it is contacting individuals with profiles similar to these locally transmitted cases. They include people who had recent close contact with those who had travelled to mainland China.

MOH said in a statement that it will calibrate its response to the viral outbreak as new developments arise, highlighting that existing travel restrictions on people who had travelled to mainland China, quarantine orders and mandatory leave of absence will help contain the spread.

“It is possible that there could be broader community spread despite our best efforts. Should that happen, we will consider additional measures to reduce human-to-human interactions, such as cancelling mass gathering, suspending schools, and paring down non-essential care services, to slow the spread of disease.”

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