All PCF centres to close for 4 days after coronavirus cluster reported at Fengshan Sparkletots pre-school

Those infected were 14 PCF employees at the Fengshan PCF Sparkletots centre, including the principal. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - All 360 centres under PAP Community Foundation (PCF) will close for four days from Thursday (March 26) after 18 Covid-19 cases were found to be linked to its pre-school in Bedok North.

Those infected were 14 employees at the Fengshan PCF Sparkletots centre, including the principal. The other four were the principal's family members.

Some of the staff were at work despite feeling unwell, said PCF chief executive Victor Bay in a letter to parents on Wednesday.

"We are sorry for what has happened," he said. "It is regrettable that measures put in place to safeguard the well-being of children and staff were not strictly followed in that centre."

Mr Bay said in a media statement that an internal committee of inquiry will be formed to investigate the matter and disciplinary action against employees would be taken where warranted.

The 47-year-old principal was well when she went to work on March 17 but developed symptoms that afternoon.

On that day, she had a meeting with her employees, and attended a course with other pre-school employees in the evening. She a saw a doctor the next morning and was on medical leave until last Friday, said a spokesman for the Early Childhood Development Agency.

Most of the other staff who tested positive began developing symptoms from last Friday and over that weekend.

The principal's four family members, who do not live with her, also tested positive on Monday and Tuesday. Contact tracing by the Ministry of Health is ongoing.

The first case linked to the cluster was a Nursery 2 teacher who was last in school on March 18 and feeling well. She was on leave from that day to this Friday but went in for a few hours on Wednesday afternoon for work that did not involve teaching children. She experienced the onset of symptoms last Friday and went to see a doctor.

The pre-school in Fengshan Block 126 will close till April 7. All staff and children at the pre-school will be placed on quarantine.

Ms Cheryl Chan, who is MP for Fengshan, said the teacher who first tested positive did not travel overseas nor have any family members who contracted the virus. There were no symptoms either when she was in school.

"The teacher herself feels equally bad to have caused inconveniences. But it is not her fault. She too, is fighting this virus," Ms Chan said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

"Our teachers have always put their heart and soul to teach and care for the children. I have known many of them for years. None of the teachers would knowingly do anything that puts the children at risk."

PCF, which has about 360 pre-schools islandwide with more than 40,000 children, is closing all its centres to review and reiterate its precautionary measures with its employees and to clean and disinfect the premises.

"We will also review our standard operating procedures to identify any gaps and tighten processes to ensure full compliance," said Mr Bay.

The centres will reopen next Monday. The Fengshan centre will reopen on April 8.

In a letter to parents on Wednesday, Mr Bay said: "It is a trying time as we deal with this pandemic... We would like to assure you that we are doing our utmost to keep your child safe and healthy."

He added that all centres have been instructed to ensure that children and employees will not be allowed to enter if they show any signs or symptoms of being unwell. Large group activities and excursions, as well as all non-essential visits to PCF centres, will be suspended.

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