SINGAPORE: Pre-schools here have moved to implement additional measures, on top of a two-week Leave of Absence (LOA), to safeguard children under their care from the threat of the Wuhan virus outbreak which began in China.
Anchor operator MY World Preschool said only 1 to 2 per cent of its teachers and students are affected by the compulsory LOA measures, and that it “may face operational issues due to the rapidly evolving situation”.
Aside from the LOA measures, MY World Preschool has implemented more frequent temperature checks and cleaning, temporarily halted large scale centre events and excursions, and restricted entry into its centres.
EtonHouse Pre-school and anchor operator E-Bridge Pre-school, both run by EtonHouse International Education Group, have “a small number” of staff who are affected by the LOA measures, said executive director Ng Yi Xian, adding that school operations are not affected as the number is “insignificant”.
These individuals have to report their temperature daily to HR and get clearance from a doctor before returning to work, he added.
A CORONAVIRUS PORTAL
EtonHouse has also set up a working committee to “respond swiftly to mitigate any potential risks”, said Mr Ng.
The EtonHouse team has also created a coronavirus portal to ensure documents like live data of the travel declaration responses, an epidemic response plan and the standard operating procedure for suspected cases are accessible to staff.
“We will remain vigilant in conducting health checks and monitor closely the health of children and staff. We have also stocked up on child and adult surgical masks and thermometer supplies,” said Mr Ng.
Global EduHub, which runs over 20 pre-schools including Mulberry Learning, Little Greenhouse and Alphabet Playhouse, said that aside from staff returning from mainland China, teachers who were in recent close contact with individuals from China are also required to take a paid LOA.
PLANS TO REIMBURSE MEDICAL CONSULTATIONS
According to chief operating officer Peh Yi Han, Global EduHub also plans to reimburse the cost of medical consultations so that affected children or staff can have a doctor certify them fit and free of respiratory illness before they resume classes at the centres.
“We believe these additional measures can help protect our children and staff, and are worth the additional cost to the organisation,” said Mr Peh.
In a media release on Wednesday (Jan 29), anchor operator PCF Sparkletots said that less than 3 per cent of the PAP Community Foundation pre-school and eldercare staff, or about 200 of more than 7,500 will be required to take 14 days of LOA, said assistant CEO of PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Tan Lee Jee.
“We will be making manpower adjustments between the centres to cater for those who will be on LOA and we do not foresee this to affect our operations,” she added.
This follows the announcement on Monday of a two-week LOA for all pre-school students and staff members returning from mainland China to Singapore from Jan 14.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said that all pre-schools were notified in an advisory from the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Monday morning, and that all operators should provide paid leave of absence to affected employees and monitor their health.
About 500 to 600 pre-school teachers had gone to or returned from China for various reasons such as study trips and vacations, said Mr Lee.
He also estimated that about 1,000 out of 180,000 pre-school children in Singapore would have gone to or returned from China.
"We believe it's manageable. We are closely working with some 400 pre-school operators to make sure that this is smoothly managed," he said, adding that ECDA and MSF will be visiting various pre-schools to check on implementation and provide support to the sector.
"ROBUST MEASURES IN PLACE"
On Wednesday evening, the Health Ministry announced another three new confirmed cases of the coronavirus - all three Chinese nationals from Wuhan.
This brings the total number infected in Singapore to 10.
In a visit to a My First Skool centre in Buangkok on Tuesday, Mr Lee assured parents that there are “robust measures in place” and that the respective ministries and agencies are working closely with pre-school operators.
My First Skool, which has more than 140 centres islandwide, has ramped up cleaning of its facilities and increased the frequency of temperature taking to safeguard students and staff, said general manager Ms Thian Ai Ling on Tuesday.
Transient staff, parents and visitors who have a fever or display respiratory symptoms will not be allowed to enter centre premises. The centres will also avoid events involving large groups and reschedule excursions.
When CNA visited the centre on Tuesday, staff wearing surgical masks were observed taking the temperatures of parents and children, as well as ensuring their hands were sanitised. Staff members also checked on the travel histories of parents and children who did not complete a travel declaration form sent out last week.
"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,” Ms Thian had said.
"Should they do (show symptoms), we will contact parents immediately," she added.
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