Pre-schools can have visitors, hold celebrations as Covid-19 rules ease further: ECDA

Pre-schools can also make masks optional for staff and children. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Pre-schools can once again welcome visitors and will no longer have to monitor the travel plans of staff and children from Monday (Aug 29), as the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) announced a further easing of Covid-19 measures for the sector.

The move, announced on Wednesday, comes as the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic said masks would be optional, except on public transport and in healthcare settings.

In a circular seen by The Straits Times, ECDA also said pre-schools can hold celebrations involving external guests, can make masks optional for staff and children, need not separate children into cohorts, and may resume showering children.

These will take effect from Monday.

It also said the Health Ministry and ECDA plan to distribute 10 antigen rapid test kits to each staff member and child next month, with details to be released soon.

The revised guidelines follow Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement during the National Day Rally on Sunday that masks will not need to be worn in class.

Children need to be able to see the facial expressions of their teachers and one another, as this is crucial for their learning and development, PM Lee said.

Over the past two years, parents and experts here and abroad have raised concerns over the long-term effects of mask-wearing for children.

Mask-wearing on school buses will also be optional, said ECDA.

Since measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 began in April 2020, external guests have not been allowed to attend events such as birthday celebrations and graduation ceremonies at pre-schools.

Under the new guidelines, pre-schools can now carry out celebrations involving such guests, subject to safe management measures.

This includes ensuring that high-touch points in common areas used for the celebration or ceremony are wiped down and disinfected after the event.

Cohorting for children will also no longer be required, allowing for pre-schools to deploy manpower more flexibly, said ECDA. This means children from morning and afternoon sessions are allowed to intermingle.

Amid the relaxed rules, pre-schools still have to remind staff and parents to declare when an enrolled child or staff member tests positive for Covid-19, ECDA noted.

Staff or parents should also inform the pre-school if any staff member or child has had recent contact with an infected person. This will enable pre-schools to inform parents of new cases and will allow parents to make an informed decision whether to send their child to the pre-school, it said.

Even as safe management measures have been revised, the agency said it will respond with new measures quickly if new variants surface.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said students should remain vigilant, continue to practise good hygiene and be socially responsible, even as masks are made optional.

"Looking forward to seeing the happy faces of our students and staff," he added.

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