Coronavirus pandemic

Parents grapple with quarantine orders, closures

The PCF branch at Fengshan Block 126 emerged as a new Covid-19 cluster, with 19 coronavirus cases linked to it so far.
The PCF branch at Fengshan Block 126 emerged as a new Covid-19 cluster, with 19 coronavirus cases linked to it so far.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Children - and some of their parents - at a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots centre at Fengshan Block 126, which has been identified as a Covid-19 cluster, have been served with quarantine orders.

Other parents are scrambling to make alternative care arrangements for their pre-school children as all 360 PCF Sparkletots centres, with more than 40,000 children enrolled islandwide, are being closed for four days, starting yesterday.

The centre closures come after the Fengshan Block 126 branch emerged on Wednesday as a new coronavirus cluster. There are now 20 cases linked to the cluster - 15 are staff, and five are family members of the school's principal, who is a confirmed case. The centre's remaining 10 staff and about 110 pupils are in quarantine. Another 30 staff from other PCF centres have also been placed under quarantine as they had attended a training course with the Fengshan PCF centre's principal.

Housewife Merry Chew, 34, and her two-year-old daughter, who attends the Fengshan Block 126 centre, were served with quarantine orders yesterday at their flat in Bedok. Mrs Chew has to be quarantined along with her daughter as she is her main caregiver.

"The centre is doing its best to protect our kids. All of the teachers are really good. This is not their fault."

She said she was worried by the large number of cases from the centre, but added that the coronavirus "is everywhere - you are either lucky or unlucky".

News of the other 30 staff across other PCF centres being quarantined spooked some parents.

Sales executive Jean Ong, 31, has a son attending the PCF Sparkletots branch at Fengshan Block 115, close to the affected centre.

She received a call yesterday afternoon from her son's centre informing her that its principal was among the staff who have been quarantined. "It has been a week since the two principals had contact. Our principal had been in school the past week and surely interacted with teachers. We won't know if (she) has contracted Covid-19 and passed it to my son's teachers."

She said she will not be sending her son to school next week even if it reopens, and will be monitoring the situation closely.

Another parent, Ms Nurul Huda, 34, who has two children attending a PCF Sparkletots centre in Choa Chu Kang, also said she will not send them back to school "until there is a visible improvement in the figures".

The private tutor added: "The incubation period is 14 days. With only four days of closure, what happens if new cases emerge after the centres reopen?"

However, some parents said they would let their children go back to school when the centres reopen on Monday. A civil servant who wanted to be known only as Ms Ye, 33, has twins attending a PCF centre at Fengshan Block 184. "I will send my kids back to school (when the centres reopen). I trust PCF's processes, and it is just one centre that seems to have a lapse... We have to be brave and also hope that all partners are socially responsible," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2020, with the headline 'Parents grapple with quarantine orders, closures'. Subscribe