SINGAPORE: The Government owes parents a responsibility to “maintain high standards” across all pre-schools so that they can have “peace of mind” when they go to work, said Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee on Thursday (Mar 26).
“Pre-schools are an essential service in Singapore. Parents entrust their children to our pre-school sector so they have peace of mind when they go to work,” he told reporters.
“Some parents have alternative caregiving arrangements readily available, but many do not, that’s why they avail themselves of childcare, including full-day childcare.”
This includes workers on the frontlines, like hospital staff, general practitioners, and other industries such as cleaners, those in F&B and public transport, he said.
Mr Lee’s remarks follow Wednesday’s report by the Ministry of Health, which indicated a new cluster of 18 cases linked to the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots centre in Fengshan.
Fourteen of the 18 cases are employees at the pre-school, including the principal of the centre. Four of the other cases are family members of the principal.
In an update, Mr Lee told reporters that another member of the pre-school staff, a teacher, was confirmed on Thursday to have been infected with COVID-19.
READ: All PCF centres to close for 4 days after 14 employees, including principal, infected with COVID-19
On Wednesday, PCF announced that it would close all of its centres for four days from Thursday to review and reiterate its enhanced precautionary measures with staff and clean and disinfect premises.
The Fengshan centre will close for two weeks, and all children and staff present at the centre from Mar 16 to Mar 24 are on quarantine.
On why all PCF centres will close for four days instead of 14, Mr Lee said that other centres “have not had lots of infected individuals”. Thus, there is no need to account for the 14-day incubation period.
However, he noted parents’ concern about their children’s wellbeing, with some parents deciding to take their children out of their pre-schools.
To accommodate this, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) decided to waive the one-day monthly attendance requirement for parents to qualify for pre-school subsidies.
Nevertheless, the Government is not opposed to adopting more drastic measures, “if there is a sign of growing community transmission”.
“We will have to consider more measures, including ... more drastic measures, which could include closures of some workplaces, as well as closures of pre-schools, schools,” said Mr Lee.