PSLE pupils' parents anxious, frustrated by Covid-19 rules and delays

Many parents have voiced their confusion and frustration about Covid-19 protocols and its impact on their children taking the PSLE.
Many parents have voiced their confusion and frustration about Covid-19 protocols and its impact on their children taking the PSLE.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Madam Elisabeth Fong, 46, has called the Ministry of Health (MOH) more than 100 times to find out what she should do to protect her Primary 6 son after one of her tenants tested positive for Covid-19.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Wednesday (Sept 29), she described the myriad of complex and at times contradictory Covid-19 protocols that she had dealt with over the past two weeks.

"I felt very helpless - knowing that my son was going to take PSLE," she said, referring to the Primary School Leaving Examination, with the first written paper starting on Thursday.

She added that trying to get help was hampered by having to explain the situation from scratch to every officer handling her case.

When her tenant was confirmed to have the virus on Sept 18, Madam Fong and her son - who is unvaccinated because his birthday is in November - were issued quarantine orders two days later.

After many frantic calls, her infected tenant, who shares a room with a 68-year-old co-tenant, was finally taken to a government quarantine facility on Sept 21.

Madam Fong's son is one of many Primary 6 children who have been slapped with quarantine orders amid the sharp spike in Covid-19 cases over the past two weeks, with a record 2,236 cases reported on Tuesday.

Since last Tuesday (Sept 21), there have been 275 patients aged from 12 to 18 diagnosed with Covid-19.

Many parents have voiced their confusion and frustration about Covid-19 protocols and its impact on their children taking the PSLE, with some calling for more clarity and coordination among the service providers.

Said Madam Fong: "It was so difficult to get through to the Ministry of Health and the different parties involved to find out what to do - everything from when our quarantine order started to when they were coming to take my tenant to a government quarantine facility because he did have not have an attached bathroom for his room."

Her son had sleepless nights from anxiety about whether he could take the national examination that he had studied hard for, she added.

On Sunday, they were relieved to learn that quarantined pupils and those on leave of absence were allowed to take the PSLE.

But the delays in finding answers and the worry about getting infected have taken a mental and emotional toll on both of them, said Madam Fong.

"There's a lot of room for interpretation in the many measures. Even when my quarantine order is up today, I don't know whether it is lifted at noon or at 11.59pm," she added.

Another parent affected by Covid-19 rules for children taking the PSLE is Madam Wong, 46, whose elder son is taking the PSLE but is on  leave of absence. This came after her younger son in Primary 3 was served a quarantine order last Saturday after his classmate tested positive for the virus.

She was one of three parents who told ST they had received a call saying someone would be at their home to swab their child for a PCR test as well as a contradictory SMS saying their child had to visit the regional testing centre for the PCR test.

Madam Wong's confusion did not last long as the swab-taker showed up on the same day to administer the PCR test to her younger son.

But she then had to wait three days, instead of the normal 24 hours, to get the result of her son's PCR test.

Madam Wong said she tried to contact MOH on Monday and Tuesday, but all her calls went unanswered.

"Calling the different agencies is like a merry-go-round", said the manager in the finance sector who declined to give her full name.

"Over the three days, I think I refreshed the HealthHub app every 20 minutes... It was mental torture not knowing if my younger son is okay and how it would affect my elder son taking PSLE", said Madam Wong.

"There are so many terms issued by MOH, and it's very hard to keep up with the changing announcements."

Between Thursday and Oct 6, quarantined pupils will be allowed to take the PSLE this year if they wish to, subject to stringent criteria.

The arrangements are different from last year's restrictions, which did not permit candidates in quarantine to sit exams.