SINGAPORE: Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung has instructed that a correction direction be issued to Singapore States Times and its owner Mr Alex Tan over an online post alleging COVID-19 transmission in schools.
The Facebook post, published on Monday by Singapore States Times on Monday (May 4) and shared by Mr Tan on the same day, contains "a false statement of fact", said the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office on Tuesday.
The post said that the Education Minister "is responsible for numerous infections in schools after he refused to close down the schools", said Government website Factually.
It also said that "at least 50 students and teachers had become infected with COVID-19 by 3 April 2020 as a result of transmission in schools, which is false", said Factually.
Singapore announced stricter measures on Apr 3 to curb the spread of COVID-19 , including the closure of most non-essential workplaces and the implementation of full home-based learning for schools.
As of Apr 3, 69 students and staff in Ministry of Education (MOE) schools, including the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), were reported to have been infected with COVID-19, said Factually.
However, all but three unlinked cases were due to transmission via overseas travel, within households, social settings and a non-school workplace, said Factually.
“In short, none of the 69 infections were traced back to MOE schools, including the IHLs,” said Factually.
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Schools were suspended for full home-based learning on Apr 8.
Before that, however, the authorities had already taken precautionary measures such as new hygiene and cleaning routines for students, fixed seating and assigned play areas, suspension of co-curricular activities, as well as placing unwell students with a travel history, or who lived with family members who had a travel history, on a leave of absence, said Factually.
“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.
“Instead, we have kept schools open as long as possible, while keeping our students safe,” it said.
The POFMA Office said the Education Minister had also ordered that a targeted correction direction be issued to Facebook, which requires the social media platform to communicate a correction notice to all Singapore users in Singapore who access the falsehood through its service.
In April, the Singapore States Times was issued a correction direction over a post about MOH’s reporting of COVID-19 cases. It was also issued another direction earlier that month over a post claiming that quarantined foreign workers would not be paid their salaries.