SINGAPORE - Over the last three months, 129 students and 17 school staff have tested positive for Covid-19.
This is about 0.03 per cent of the total student population from primary to pre-university levels, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing in a Facebook post on Friday (July 30).
He, however, reassured parents that schools remain safe places for learning.
"As a parent myself, I would like to reassure fellow parents that our schools remain safe places for learning," he wrote.
"We have implemented stringent safe management measures to minimise transmission risks. Surveillance measures are in place to detect potential Covid-19 positive cases as soon as possible, and we are using ring-fencing measures such as the Ministry of Education's (MOE) leave of absence (LOA) to keep potential cases out of schools."
The update comes in the wake of a new cluster linked to a cleaner at Punggol Primary School who was identified on Tuesday.
The cluster has since grown to 12 cases on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).
All pupils and staff of the school will undergo mandatory swab tests on Thursday and Friday.
As at Friday, 20 schools are on partial home-based learning (HBL) and two on full HBL – Punggol Primary School and Xingnan Primary School.
MOE added that almost all eligible students have registered for their vaccinations, of whom over 90 per cent have received their first dose, and almost 70 per cent have taken their second dose.
Mr Chan said he had received “mixed views” from parents in Singapore about transiting schools to full HBL, with some keen on it and others who are against it.
He listed several ways that HBL has an impact on students, parents and teachers.
Not all students have a conducive environment for HBL, he said, adding that “full HBL on a prolonged basis comes at a significant cost to our students’ learning, and socio-emotional and mental well-being”.
He also pointed out that parents may have to scramble to make alternative care arrangements which may not be safer for children, and that teachers are juggling the additional demands of preparing and conducting online lessons while taking care of their families.
Noting that Singapore is unlikely to see zero community cases in the short term, and vaccination for younger children is currently unavailable, Mr Chan added that full home-based learning (HBL) is not something that will be resorted to, unless necessary.
He said: "Based on current science and what we understand about the virus, MOE will continue to adopt a targeted approach to deal with Covid-19 cases in our schools.
"This means that when we have a school case, we will isolate those who are close contacts of the positive case through LOA or a quarantine order."
In exceptional cases where the situation is unclear, MOE may put the entire school on HBL to break any possible transmission as well as to give the MOH time to test and investigate thoroughly before reopening the school, Mr Chan said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and review if any adjustment is needed in line with national guidelines, especially as we transit towards managing Covid-19 as an endemic disease,” he added.
Schools under full or partial HBL
1. Cantonment Primary School
2. De La Salle School
3. Fairfield Methodist School (Pri)
4. Fuhua Primary School
5. Henry Park Primary School
6. Horizon Primary School
7. Mayflower Primary School
8. Qifa Primary School
9. Raffles Girls’ Primary School
10. Stamford Primary School
11. West Grove Primary School
12. Zhangde Primary School
13. Xingnan Primary School*
14. Xinghua Primary School
15. Holy Innocents’ Primary School
16. Rivervale Primary School
17. Pei Chun Public School
18. Punggol Primary School*
19. Anderson Secondary School
20. Yuying Secondary School
21. Boon Lay Secondary School
22. CHIJ Katong Convent
* Schools on full HBL