SINGAPORE - Assemblies, camps, mass celebrations and other large group and communal activities will be suspended at schools here from Wednesday (Feb 5) after the first local transmissions of the coronavirus were reported on Tuesday (Feb 4).
The Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in a joint statement that the suspension affects primary and secondary schools, special education schools, junior colleges and Millennia Institute.
Recess times in schools will also be staggered, although co-curricular activities and after-school programmes may continue but in smaller groups.
These measures, which aim to minimise gatherings of students in large numbers, are being put in place to improve protection of students and staff against the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, said the two ministries.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed that Singapore has recorded its first cases of local coronavirus transmission, with four women here infected who had not travelled to Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
In addition, another two confirmed cases were announced on Tuesday. These two were among a group of 92 people flown back to Singapore from Wuhan on a Scoot flight last Thursday.
The six new cases reported on Tuesday bring the total number of confirmed cases in Singapore to 24.
As for pre-schools, the Early Childhood Development Agency will also step up precautionary measures.
Large group and communal activities at pre-schools - including assemblies, excursions and field trips - will also be suspended.
Health checks and temperature screening for all children, staff and visitors will continue to be done, with the frequency of temperature taking for children and staff to be increased.
These measures will also apply to specific social services for vulnerable groups of people, such as residential facilities and disability day centres.
Eldercare facilities will also suspend external excursions and large-scale gatherings.
MOE and MSF said that the additional measures will allow them to mitigate the potential risks posed when students gather in large numbers, while allowing schools and pre-schools to continue with most of their usual activities.
They added that schools and pre-schools will closely monitor the health of students and staff, and advise them to see a doctor immediately if they are sick.
"We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and will implement further measures should the situation escalate," said MOE and MSF.
Parents The Straits Times spoke to were worried about the coronavirus situation and they welcomed the latest measures.
Housewife Liew Cheng Huan, 53, who has three children in secondary school, said the coronavirus is a real concern now that the number of cases here has gone up to 24.
While she was not completely sure if the new measures announced would make a difference, she said cancelling camps was a good move.
She said: "The kids are still in close contact in class. The onus is on parents to monitor our children's condition and keep them at home if they are unwell. Schools can't police everything the kids do in and out of the school environment."
For Madam Michelle Teo, 42, whose two daughters are in pre-school and primary school, the measures by MOE and MSF are a way to reassure parents.
The housewife said she would keep her younger three-year-old daughter at home only if she is unwell, or if the pre-school organises activities outside school.
"We have to trust the schools to a certain point. It's good to know they have the students' interests at heart," she said.