Students taking part in National School Games, S'pore Youth Festival must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19

There are currently plans to resume competitive games for all 29 sports across all divisions. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Students who wish to participate in the National School Games (NSG) and the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) when they resume this year must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

There are currently plans to resume competitive games for all 29 sports across all divisions, and the youth festival is set to resume in the second term of the school year, subject to changes in the Covid-19 situation, a Ministry of Education (MOE) spokesman told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Feb 9).

"NSG and SYF are important milestones in the holistic development of student athletes and performers," the spokesman said.

"As students may be unmasked and may intermingle during these activities, there will be precautions such as strict cohortising, safe distancing and other safe management measures, in line with national guidelines, to keep our students safe."

From March 14, children from as young as 12 years old are considered fully vaccinated for only 270 days after completing the primary vaccination series, consisting of two shots of mRNA or three shots of the Sinovac/Sinopharm vaccine, and will have to take a booster shot to remain fully vaccinated.

As with previous years, competitive sports will be held in schools, various SportSG venues and other specialised sport-specific facilities, the spokesman said.

For now, team sports involving more than five participants at the NSG will be conducted as part of an ongoing MOE and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) pilot. Only fully vaccinated participants are allowed to take part, with each set capped at 10 people, including players and game officials such as referees and linesmen.

This means that schools participating in a team sport like football cannot field the usual 11 players and the sport will have to be adjusted according to the prevailing national guidelines.

"For the other sports, in alignment with the latest SportSG guidelines, participants need to be fully vaccinated, recently recovered from Covid-19 or medically ineligible (for vaccination). This is subject to changes in national posture," the spokesman said.

SYF presentations by school bands will follow National Arts Council (NAC) guidelines.

Unvaccinated students can still take part in co-curricular activities (CCA) within the school, subject to the prevailing CCA safe management measures (SMM), said the MOE spokesman.

Parents ST spoke to were mixed about the new measures.

Mr Chng, 48, who did not wish to provide his full name, a senior executive at an international manufacturing company, said vaccine-differentiated safe management measures are not necessary because Singapore has a high vaccination rate.

"The Government has done a good job to move people towards getting vaccinated," said Mr Chng, who has a child in primary school who plays rugby and football.

"Instead, let's focus on ensuring greater social responsibility from all, practise good hygiene (and) stay home when you are not well. This is a more sustainable strategy."

Students performing during the Singapore Youth Festival 2021. SYF presentations by school bands this year will follow National Arts Council guidelines. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, SINGAPORE

Madam Tan, 41, who also did not want to give her full name and is the mother of a daughter who sings in the school choir, welcomed the new measures. 

Having recovered from Covid-19 herself, she said getting vaccinated or encouraging it is the right thing to do.

"Vaccination does help to ease the severity of the infection," she said. "As a fully vaccinated, Covid-recovered person, I was with very mild symptoms - just a sore throat for a day, and loss of smell for about three, four days when I was infected."

One school team rugby coach who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media welcomed the new measures to start competitive games.

"The most important thing for me is the return to play for the kids. It's been two years and, personally, I feel this is the best way to do (it)," the coach said.

"Let's remember that a lot of kids are also probably not in the best condition. We need to ease (them) back and build that base-level fitness before doing anything else. This (pilot) allows us to do this."

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