SINGAPORE - Just one in 10 children attending Pat’s Schoolhouse Kovan, which is linked with a new coronavirus case, turned up for school on Monday (Feb 10) morning.
This was even as some students and teachers were placed on a 14-day leave of absence, and the school disinfected its premises.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health announced that a 71-year-old man, who reported onset of symptoms on Feb 1, was confirmed to have the coronavirus infection on Feb 8.
He had picked up his grandchild at Pat’s Schoolhouse Kovan prior to hospital admission. He is now warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
The news evidently spooked parents, with only one child seen turning up for class during the morning drop-off time frame from around 8 to 9am. There was no visible movement save for a cleaner sweeping the floor just outside themain door and a man delivering a few boxes of face masks.
This was even though the school was conducting classes as normal.
A couple dropped their child off at the pre-school on Monday. They said they had read reports about the case but did not receive any notice that classes are cancelled.
But while they are worried, they said they believe the school will “ensure a safe and clean environment for the children”.
Mr Ronald Kwong, director of operations at Busy Bees Singapore that runs the Pat’s Schoolhouse pre-schools, told The Straits Times the attendance figure was about 10 per cent.
Of the school’s decision to place affected students and staff on leave of absence, Dr Piotr Chlebicki, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Alvernia Hospital, told ST that this was a cautious response, and that most parents need not worry.
“Unless the grandfather had gone into the classrooms and spent time playing with all the children, there is no reason to do anything.
“We trace contact (of the infected) but not contact of contacts. If we start tracing contact of contacts we will have to track down thousands.”
Pat’s Schoolhouse is one of the more expensive players in the industry and is popular among parents for its bilingual curriculum that gives children equal exposure to English and Mandarin.
Mr Kwong added that the Kovan centre - the largest of 15 - “undertook additional disinfection of the entire premises, including external areas, when we were alerted of this case”.
“We spare no effort in ensuring the health and well-being of our children,” he added.
The frequency of disinfection and sanitisation has been increased across all its centres. Health checks, including temperature-taking, are also conducted at least thrice a day for children and staff.
“Our teaching staff have been constantly reiterating to our children to practise good personal hygiene at all times, especially on frequent hand-washing with soap. We work with parents to reinforce this with their children at home as well,” said Mr Kwong.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual at Modern Montessori International in Kovan, another pre-school just 50m or so away.
About 10 children were dropped off there by their parents in the 20 minutes ST was there.
Ms Angeline Seah, 40, who arrived with her four-year-old daughter, said she had read about the case on Sunday night.
"It's fine. Everyone just has to do his part to practise good hygiene. You can't expect the children to stay indoors every day.
"So we take precautions like washing our hands with soap. But we still go about our daily lives," said Ms Seah, who works in supply chain management.
But some were worried about the proximity of both pre-school centres.
Madam Pan An Qi, a Chinese national who took her three-year-old grandson to the Modern Montessori centre on Monday, had not been aware of the news.
Her daughter and son-in-law are both permanent residents here.
Madam Pan said: "If I had known, I wouldn't have let my grandson go to school today. I won't bring him tomorrow."
But the 60-year-old, who has been in Singapore since last July to help take care of her grandson, added that the pre-school has stepped up hygiene measures in recent days.
"They sanitise the place well - you can smell it. And parents now are only allowed to drop their kids off at the gate, while in the past they could go in all the way to the classroom."
The grandfather who was confirmed to be infected with the virus had also visited Paya Lebar Methodist Church, aside from Pat’s Schoolhouse Kovan.
The Methodist Church of Singapore said in a statement on Monday that Paya Lebar Methodist Church would be sealing its premises for thorough sanitisation.
The kindergarten at the church will also be closed for cleaning until further notice.