SINGAPORE: All PAP Community Foundation (PCF) centres will be closed from Thursday (Mar 26) for four days after 14 employees from the PCF Sparkletots centre in Fengshan tested positive for COVID-19.
Among the employees infected with the virus is the centre's principal, said the Early Childhood Development Agency in a statement.
READ: Singapore reports 73 new COVID-19 cases, new cluster involving PCF Sparkletots centre linked to 18 cases
The principal was well when she was at work on Mar 17, but developed symptoms in the afternoon, said an ECDA spokesperson.
"On that day, she had a meeting with her staff and later attended a course with other pre-school staff in the evening.
"The principal saw a doctor the next morning on Mar 18 and was on medical leave until Mar 20," said the spokesperson.
Most of the other employees who tested positive began developing symptoms from Mar 20 and over the weekend, said ECDA.
Those infected include both teaching and non-teaching employees.
The agency added that four of the principal’s family members, who do not live with her, also tested positive on Mar 23 and Mar 24. Contact tracing by MOH is ongoing.
Singapore on Wednesday reported 73 new COVID-19 cases. The PCF Sparkletots centre in Fengshan was announced as a new cluster, linked to 18 cases in total.
CHILDREN, EMPLOYEES TO BE QUARANTINED
During the closure of centres from Mar 26 to Mar 29, PCF will "review and reiterate its enhanced precautionary measures with staff as well as to undertake cleaning and disinfection of all their premises", said ECDA.
The centre at Block 126 Fengshan will close for two weeks.
MOH has also placed all children and staff who were present at the Fengshan centre between Mar 16 and Mar 24 on quarantine, said ECDA.
READ: Sufficient capacity in healthcare system amid COVID-19 outbreak, but Singapore cannot be complacent: Gan Kim Yong
"ECDA is closely monitoring the situation, and working with the management, staff, parents and children ... to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all," added the agency.
In a statement late Wednesday night, PCF chief executive officer Victor Bay said he was "deeply sorry to all parents who children are enrolled with PCF for the inconvenience caused by the closures".
"We will form an internal committee of inquiry to investigate the matter, with a view to taking appropriate staff disciplinary action where warranted," he said.
"During the period of closure, besides engaging professional cleaning agencies to conduct disinfection, sanitisation and deep-cleaning of all our centres, we will conduct refresher training on health, hygiene and safety practices for our staff.
"We will also review our SOPs to identify any gaps and tighten processes to ensure full compliance," Mr Bay added.
ECDA said that since January, it has been working closely with pre-school operators to put in place enhanced precautionary measures in the schools.
"These include restriction of visitors, suspension of large group and communal activities as well as excursions and field trips, health checks and stepped up temperature screening for all children and teachers," it said.
Pre-school staff have been consistently advised to seek immediate medical attention and stay away from school if they do not feel well, and pre-school operators were also advised to limit the deployment of staff across different centres.
ECDA added that safe distancing measures were also steadily introduced with the latest announcements on Mar 24.
INFECTED TEACHER DID NOT TRAVEL OVERSEAS: CHERYL CHAN
The Nursery 2 teacher infected with COVID-19 from the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots centre in Fengshan did not travel overseas nor did she show any symptoms when in school.
She also did not have any family members who contracted the novel coronavirus, said Member of Parliament (MP) for Fengshan Cheryl Chan on Wednesday.
Ms Chan in her Facebook post said that it was not "a blame game". "It's getting the facts right and helping with the situation," she added.
"In our childcare centres, they take all necessary precautionary measures as they understand the importance of safety, hygiene and that they deal with young children," said Ms Chan.
"Fact remains that the teacher unknowingly contracted the virus and now others in the centre are at risk."
Ms Chan said the closure was "the right thing to do in the interest of the children and the community".
"Our teachers have always put their heart and soul to teach and care for the children."
"None of the teachers would knowingly do anything that puts the children at risks," the MP added.
"The teacher herself feels equally bad to have caused inconveniences. But it is not her fault. She too, is fighting this virus."
Ms Chan encouraged parents to monitor the health condition of their children in the coming days.