SINGAPORE - With more children exposed to Covid-19 this year than last year, some parents have had to accompany their young ones serving their quarantine order in hotels here.
Among them is housewife Angeline Chia, 48, who has been with her nine-year-old son Elliot Lam at Hotel Mi in Bencoolen Street since Sunday (May 16).
The St Stephen's School pupil was a close contact of a Covid-19 positive case at the school, where two pupils tested positive last Thursday.
The school went into home-based learning mode last Friday, the same day it issued Elliot a leave of absence, when he had to stay at home and monitor his health.
Later that day, Madam Chia received a call from the Ministry of Health (MOH), saying her son had been served with a quarantine order, which means a stay in an assigned place.
"He was excited to come to the hotel. He thinks it is a staycation," said Madam Chia. They will be allowed to leave on May 25 if they test negative for Covid-19 the day before, she added.
Elliot's twin brother Aryton, who is in a different class in the school, is being cared for by their father at home.
As at Tuesday, 24 Covid-19 patients have been linked to a cluster that was first detected when a 50-year-old Learning Point tutor at Parkway Centre tested positive for the virus on May 12. Of these, 14 are primary school pupils.
MOH has not disclosed the number of children served with a quarantine order.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said it works closely with MOH and the schools to identify close contacts of the confirmed cases.
Once the close contacts have been identified, the schools will issue a leave of absence to them first.
"Concurrently, MOH will assess whether these close contacts should be issued a quarantine order," said an MOE spokesman.
Madam Chia was told a parent or guardian had to accompany the child and that they do not have to bear the cost.
Mr Chan Fanjie, a 43-year-old public servant, moved into the Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy last Thursday after his daughter Claudia, a Primary 2 pupil, was determined to be a close contact of a case. The eight-year-old had attended the Learning Point centre at Century Square, where the same tutor conducted lessons.
Mr Chan took his laptop with him, as he will be working from the hotel until he is allowed out on May 21, pending the Covid-19 test.
Mr Anson Loo, a 42-year-old businessman, is accompanying his son K Kayne, a Primary 3 pupil of St Stephen's School serving his quarantine order at Hotel Mi.
His 11-year-old twin daughters are being cared for at home by his wife.
Mr Loo, who has been conducting Zoom meetings from the hotel, said the small room has made it difficult for them, as he has to sit on the floor to have his meal while K Kayne uses the table.
"It is hard to cope with the allocated space," said Mr Loo.
The parents are aware they risk falling ill.
On Tuesday, MOH reported that a 37-year-old woman - a caregiver to an eight-year-old boy in quarantine - and a 43-year-old woman - a caregiver to an eight-year-old girl in quarantine - both tested positive for Covid-19.
Mr Chan, who has not been vaccinated for Covid-19, and Mr Loo, who has received the first dose, both said they are mentally prepared for the worst-case scenario.
They, like the other parents The Straits Times interviewed, said they have not been using masks in the hotel rooms.
None has been swabbed as well. As for their children, Mr Chan said Claudia was tested last Friday and found to be negative for the virus.
He said his wife and other daughter, four, were separately issued leave of absence by their workplace and pre-school respectively, while other parents said their household members were not issued a leave of absence.
Madam Hanis, who did not want her full name disclosed, has been staying in a hotel with her nine-year-old son, a Primary 3 pupil at St Stephen's School, after he was served with a quarantine order.
The 46-year-old, who has been fully vaccinated, said: "We know that everybody reacts differently to the vaccine and I don't know how much I am protected against it. My biggest worry is for my son, as we don't know how they (pupils) are impacted."