The government of Singapore reopened its schools on Monday, bucking the global trend of countries that have been forced into closures as a result of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung explained that the decision was based on science because studies indicate that children are the least susceptible to suffering major health repercussions from contracting the virus.
“There have only been a few students hit by COVID-19 in Singapore, and every single one caught it outside of their schools,” said Kung. “In that sense, schools remain safe places for children, especially as they seem to be more resilient against the virus.”
Kung also confirmed that schools would be taking extra precautions including two weeks of quarantine for those who have recently returned from overseas, forcing students to sit apart, the continued suspension of out of class activities, as well as twice-daily health checks for kindergartners.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with schools, preschools, parents and the community to ensure that our schools and preschools remain a safe and secure environment,” he continued “Employers are encouraged to provide flexible work arrangements for their employees to accommodate such exceptional circumstances.”
The re-opening of schools marks a vital step towards the resumption of normal life in the island city-state, which has aggressively taken steps against its spread since the first case was reported in January. Some of these measures include mass testing, restricted movement, and financial support for residents and businesses as the economic toll began to take effect.
The economic impact of the virus in Singapore already clear, with the economy stagnating and considerable decreases in travel, spending, and foreign trade. The state is also highly exposed to the oil market price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, making many parts of life more expensive.
Kung insisted the main concern of Singaporean authorities remains the strain on its healthcare system and others providing essentials services during the pandemic.
“Keeping our healthcare system strong is paramount in the fight against COVID-19,” he added. “Our frontline warriors will be much more assured if their children are in school, meaningfully engaged, in a safe and healthy environment.”
Despite the easing of restrictions on schools, Singaporean authorities this weekend announced a ban on all foreign tourism from today, citing the fact that a majority of cases are imported. As of Tuesday, there were a total of 558 confirmed coronavirus cases across Singapore. Out of those infected, two people have died, 17 remain in critical condition, and a further 155 have made a full recovery.