SINGAPORE: All teaching and non-teaching staff at pre-schools will be tested for COVID-19 by May 26, in order to reduce the risk of transmission when centres resume full services.
About 30,000 pre-school and early intervention staff, including teachers, principals, programme staff, administrative staff, cooks and cleaners, will take the one-time swab tests, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said in response to questions from CNA on Thursday (May 14).
The Government will pay for the one-time exercise in May, according to documents sent to pre-school staff by ECDA and seen by CNA.
BATCHED, INSTEAD OF INDIVIDUAL TESTS
To facilitate faster testing, swab samples from up to five pre-school staff will be tested in one batch instead of individually, said ECDA in the circular.
Some people may have to return for a second individual test if the batch test is positive, it added.
“After pre-school services fully resume, we will consider a risk-based testing system to protect children and staff,” an ECDA spokesperson told CNA.
SWABBING CENTRES AT POLYTECHNICS
The tests will be conducted between Friday and May 26 at four swabbing centres at polytechnics, according to the documents sent to pre-school staff. These centres will be segregated from the rest of the campus.
Those being tested will not be allowed to make their own way to the designated swabbing centres. They will have to take authorised shuttle buses, which will pick them up from either Woodlands MRT, Tampines West MRT, Dover MRT and Khatib MRT.
They will be informed of their appointment slot, pick-up time and pick-up venue by their respective pre-schools.
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As part of "circuit breaker" measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, all pre-schools, kindergartens and student care centres suspended their general services on Apr 8.
They remain open to provide limited services to students whose parents are in essential services such as healthcare.
About 10,000 children, or 5 per cent of all children enrolled in pre-schools in Singapore, have made use of those limited services during the circuit breaker period, ECDA has said previously.
The circuit breaker period, originally set to end on May 4, has since been extended until Jun 1.
Further updates on the approach for the reopening of pre-schools will be announced “in due course”, said the ECDA spokesperson.
CLOSE AND CONSTANT CONTACT WITH CHILDREN
Pre-school staff have been given priority for testing due to their close and constant contact with children in an enclosed setting, said the ECDA spokesperson.
This is part of increased monitoring to “provide assurance to preschool staff and families to support the phased opening up of general services”.
“We recognise that these precautionary tests will bring inconvenience to pre-schools and staff, and seek their understanding and support to safeguard the health and well-being of our preschool community,” the spokesperson said.
The tests are the latest precautionary measures to be implemented in pre-schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among children.
To enable contact tracing, pre-schools that continue to operate during this period are now required to use the SafeEntry system to log the entry and exit of children, staff and visitors, ECDA said in its circular.
Earlier measures include travel declarations for staff, children and visitors, health checks, suspension of group and communal activities, restriction of visitors and safe distancing measures.
All staff, as well as children who are at least two years old, are also required to wear masks.
There have been several cases of infections in pre-schools.
On Apr 13, ECDA announced that the Jurong branch of E-Bridge Preschool would be closed temporarily after a child tested positive for COVID-19. The child tested positive after a family member contracted the virus.
On Apr 6, a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots pre-school in Hougang was closed for 10 days after a teacher who provides intervention programmes to a group of children at the centre tested positive for the virus.
All PCF centres in Singapore were earlier closed for four days from Mar 26, after more than 10 employees from the PCF Sparkletots centre in Fengshan tested positive for COVID-19.