SINGAPORE: Robust measures have been put into place to ensure that children in pre-schools are given adequate protection during the Wuhan virus outbreak, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Tuesday (Jan 28).
Speaking to reporters after a visit to a My First Skool centre in Buangkok where he observed the implementation of additional steps which the pre-school had put in place, Mr Lee stressed the importance of such initiatives as well as the measures which the Government has already taken to help students and teachers.
Among the steps implemented by the My First Skool centre is having temperatures taken for parents as they drop off their children.
"These are measures which are needed to ensure the well-being of our children and pre-school staff," he said.
"Yesterday we also announced (the implementation of) a leave of absence for children in pre-schools as well as pre-school staff who have visited China in the last 14 days and moving forward."
He added: "This is again a stepped-up precautionary measure because in pre-schools and these other social facilities we have more vulnerable communities like young children, elderly, persons with disabilities and so on.
"For parents, please be assured that we have robust measures in place; we are working closely with our pre-school operators."
As of Jan 27, five cases of the Wuhan virus have been confirmed in Singapore. The deadly virus has killed at least 106 people in China so far, with more than 4,000 confirmed cases.
Out of the 25,000 teaching and programme staff in pre-schools, "early estimates" have shown that between 500 to 600 pre-school teachers had gone to or will be returning from China, said Mr Lee.
In addition, about 1,000 pre-school students had gone to or will be returning from China, he added.
My First Skool, which has more than 140 centres islandwide, has rolled out measures such as increased cleaning of facilities, as well as increased frequency of temperature taking to safeguard students and staff, said general manager Ms Thian Ai Ling.
"On a daily basis, we've always paid close attention to personal hygiene," said Ms Thian.
"Given the current situation, what we have stepped up is an additional layer of temperature taking as well as (during) multiple periods throughout the day, we are closely watching our children's well-being, ensuring that they do not show any symptoms.
"Should they do, we will contact parents immediately."
When reporters visited a My First Skool centre at Buangkok on Tuesday, staff wearing surgical masks were observed taking the temperatures of parents and children upon their arrival outside the centre.
The hands of parents and children were also sanitised before they entered the premises.
In addition, staff members also made sure to check on the travel history of students and their parents, in the event that they did not complete a travel declaration which was sent last week.
As a whole, further steps could be required down the road should the situation change, Mr Lee added.
“The situation is fluid and evolving, the Government will look at the available information and evidence, look at the international guidelines and we may need to take further steps as the situation evolves,” he said.
For now, parents reporters spoke to said they were generally satisfied with the precautions taken at the centre at Buangkok.
"Even on normal days where there's a typical outbreak like hand,foot and mouth (disease), they would already have taken extra measures for that to ensure that the kids are safe," said Mr Lee Tai Yun, who was dropping off his 3-year-old daughter.
"So I'm pretty sure that this is just another day in their lives to try and control (the situation)."
However, there are also concerns that others might not have not been upfront about their travel history.
"Not only parents but relatives as well, as we do not know whether the (other) children might have relatives who came back from China." said Mdm Janani Rajendran.
"I was considering keeping my child at home because we don't know what are the odds."
Another parent, Mr Zulfadli Abdullah, said that he had no qualms sending his son to the centre after the Chinese New Year holidays.
"Right now we have these measures in place, and if something were to happen, I would expect more measures. So it's a first step," he said.
"At the moment, with the information that we have, I think what they are doing is actually quite good."
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