As an additional precautionary measure in response to concerns expressed by parents on the recent SARS cases, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Health (MOH) have decided to close all primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges and centralised institutes from Thursday, 27 March 2003 to Sunday, 6 April 2003.
All schools have been adhering closely to MOH?s advisories since school re-opened after the March holidays. They have been screening their students every day since school re-opened. On purely medical grounds, there are currently no strong reasons for closing all schools. However, principals and general practitioners have reported that parents continue to be concerned about the risk to their children in schools. MOE and MOH hope that this additional precautionary step to close schools will address parents? concerns and further reassure them.
UPDATE ON SARS
The control measures already instituted are minimising the risk of transmission of SARS within the community. Home quarantine of contacts allows us to identify and isolate those who come down with SARS early and prevent spread to others. In the hospitals, no more healthcare workers have been infected with SARS by known or suspected cases, since the implementation of the enhanced infection control precautions.
All the SARS cases in Singapore so far can be traced back to the 3 index cases. The index cases passed on the infection to 21 primary close contacts, who in turn infected 26 other secondary close contacts. Further transmission of the infection appears to be stabilising, with only 23 more tertiary close contacts being infected. The control measures appear to be working, although it is still too early to be confident of this.
DETAILS OF SCHOOL CLOSURE
All school competitions and co-curricular activities scheduled between now and 6 April will be cancelled or postponed. The current school term, Term 2, will be extended into the June school holidays, to make up for losses in curriculum time.
The universities, polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education will continue to operate as normal. These institutes of higher learning have a different system of operation from our national schools. Furthermore, the students in our post-secondary institutions are older and are better able to understand the situation and take the necessary precautions.
MOE will advise the pre-school centres to close for the same period. Similarly, the Ministry of Community Development and Sports will be closing childcare centres while the People's Association will be closing the playgroups and tuition classes at community centres/clubs and residents' committees. Student Care Centres are advised to do likewise. Special education schools, as advised by the National Council of Social Services, and madrasahs, as advised by Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, will also close during this period.
MOE urges employers to exercise flexibility in allowing their employees affected by the closure of schools to take urgent leave to make alternative child care arrangements.
The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health will review the SARS situation before the end of next week.