Coronavirus: National School Games suspended until March, other sports events also affected by virus

(From left) Tony Low, chairman of Singapore School Sports Council; Education Minister Ong Ye Kung; Zikos Chua (football) from Nanyang JC; Adelina Cheok (rope skipping) from Edgefield Primary; Singapore Primary School Sports Council chairman Lee Hui F
(From left) Tony Low, chairman of Singapore School Sports Council; Education Minister Ong Ye Kung; Zikos Chua (football) from Nanyang JC; Adelina Cheok (rope skipping) from Edgefield Primary; Singapore Primary School Sports Council chairman Lee Hui Feng light the cauldron during the National School Games opening ceremony at the OCBC Arena on Jan 21, 2020.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - A number of local sports events, including those at the school level and national sports leagues, have been canned or postponed after Singapore upped its disease outbreak response to the coronavirus to Code Orange on Friday (Feb 7).

Others are stepping up measures to prevent the spread of the virus, or choosing to proceed with caution.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that all external school activities and inter-school activities, including the ongoing National School Games, will be suspended until the end of the March school holidays, as part of precautionary measures against the virus outbreak.

“These additional measures are intended to help schools minimise exposure of students to the public and avoid mixing of students across schools,” said an MOE spokesman in a media statement.

The announcement comes shortly after Singapore moved its disease outbreak response up a level to Orange as the coronavirus spread further within the country, with three new cases of unknown origin announced, including a junior college teacher.

The emphasis will now be on "aggressively trying to stop or limit further spread", according to the Ministry of Health's pandemic readiness and preparedness plan. Code Orange is one step below Red, which signifies an out-of-control pandemic.

The MOE spokesman added that the ministry will continue to monitor the situation closely, and work with schools, parents and the community.

"We have rolled out an educational package to teach students about the virus transmission and what they can do to prevent it," said the spokesman.

"We also urge all school students and staff to continue practising good personal hygiene, which has become extremely important.

 
 
 

"This includes washing their hands frequently with soap, wearing a surgical mask if they have a cough or runny nose to prevent infecting others, and seeing a doctor if they are sick and returning to school only when fully recovered."

Ms Dawn Lim, whose three children – 13-year-old Joel, 15-year-old Joshua and 17-year-old Clare – are in the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) tennis team, says it is the right move.

Joshua was scheduled to play in the B Division Boys team semi-finals on Wednesday.

“Obviously the children will be disappointed because they’ve been looking forward to the competition and preparing for it,” said Lim, a doctor who runs a private practice.

“But everyone understands the unique situation, and that health and safety come first. This situation is not something we can control, and (the moves) are for the good of everyone.”

In light of the heightened level, the Singapore Sports Hub have cancelled the ongoing National Stadium Open House this weekend, as well as its KpopX Fitness event, which was aiming to enter the Singapore Book of Records for the largest number of participants.

In a media statement, the Sports Hub said it would implement additional precautionary measures, such as requiring vendors and visitors to fill up a travel declaration form and increasing the cleaning frequency of common areas.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will adopt a range of precautionary measures for upcoming games, which include those in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup tournament from Feb 12-May 12. Teams from Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Philippines are scheduled to play Singaporean sides Hougang United and Tampines Rovers here.

“We will require participants to register and provide travel declaration upon arrival to the event venue,” said an FAS spokesman. Participants will also be required to provided contact details for the purposes of contact tracing.

 
 
 

The FAS is also weighing postponing, suspending or cancelling games in the Singapore Premier League, which kicks off on Feb 29, and it said this would be decided after “a comprehensive assessment of the situation and in consultation with the relevant government authorities”.

The Netball Super League, which starts on Saturday, will be played behind closed doors for now. The games will be streamed live via Netball Singapore’s Facebook page.

But for the Singapore Slingers, who play Chinese Taipei side Fubon Braves in the Asean Basketball League at the Sports Hub on Sunday, the game will proceed as normal, except for added temperature checks for spectators attending.