SINGAPORE: Precautionary measures have been stepped up to help minimise the potential spread of the novel coronavirus at Victoria Junior College, after a teacher at the school was one of three newly infected patients in Singapore.
The college will thoroughly disinfect the staff room, pantry and the teaching rooms the teacher was in, said Ms Liew Wei Li, director of schools at the Ministry of Education (MOE), at a media briefing on Friday (Feb 7).
Co-curricular activities at the college have been suspended for two weeks with immediate effect, and instead of lectures there will be more “tutorial-size” classes, she said.
The 42-year-old Singaporean teacher first reported symptoms on Sunday and was admitted to hospital three days later, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
She had been absent from school for the past week on medical leave due to a high fever, and was last at school on Jan 31, MOE said in a press release.
A few colleagues and students were in close contact with her and will be given 14 days’ leave of absence starting from the last day of contact, said Ms Liew.
In a Facebook post on Friday night, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said he spoke with the teacher on the phone, who told him that she "felt bad" over what has happened.
"I spoke with the teacher on the phone earlier this evening. She felt bad about what happened, but I assured her it was not her fault. What we are doing are necessary precautions to keep our schools safe. I also wished her speedy recovery," he said.
Mr Ong also reminded the public of the enhanced measures that MOE has implemented, which include the suspension of inter-school and external activities.
"This is to reduce the mixing of students across schools and exposure to large crowds at public places," he said.
"We have also put in place a stringent hygiene regime, ensuring students and staff practise good personal hygiene, and also social hygiene protocols such as wiping down surfaces after use."
In the Facebook post, Mr Ong also said that parents asking for classes to be suspended was both "drastic" and "unrealistic".
"Some parents have suggested suspending schools. But this is a drastic move that will disrupt life for many families, and it is also not realistic to expect older children to stay home the whole time school is closed."
He also assured the public that MOE will continue to monitor the situation and take necessary steps "to keep our people safe".
Singapore on Friday announced three new cases of the novel coronavirus, taking the total number of people confirmed to have the virus in the country to 33.
In addition to the teacher, the other two cases are a 53-year-old Singaporean man who had been in Malaysia on Jan 6, 11 and 17 and a 39-year-old Singaporean woman who had also been in Malaysia from Jan 22 to 29.
None of the three new patients is linked to the existing cases or have been in China recently, said the health ministry.
READ: Coronavirus outbreak: Singapore raises DORSCON level to orange; schools to suspend inter-school, external activities
The Government also raised the risk assessment for the novel coronavirus outbreak from DORSCON Yellow to DORSCON Orange, introducing additional precautionary measures.
These include the suspension of inter-school and external activities with immediate effect until the end of the March school holidays.
All schools and teachers will also continue to implement previously announced enhanced measures such as classroom-based assemblies.
The novel coronavirus outbreak started in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province, but has since spread to more than 20 countries.
More than 600 people have died and at least 30,000 people have been infected with the disease, the vast majority of them in China.