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Of the 216 students infected with the coronavirus from May to July 2021, 103 were primary school pupils. ― TODAY file pic
Of the 216 students infected with the coronavirus from May to July 2021, 103 were primary school pupils. ― TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 13 — From May to July, 216 students out of Singapore’s student population of 600,000 came down with Covid-19, with the vast majority contracting the disease from their households, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Of those infected with the coronavirus, 103 of them were primary school pupils, Chan said today (August 13).

More than half the cases were issued quarantine orders or isolated via leave of absence from school before they tested positive, he wrote in a post on Facebook.

This meant that no contact tracing was needed in schools, as these cases did not pose a risk to their schoolmates.

Separately, Chan said that more than 20,000 students had to undergo home-based learning over the past three months when coronavirus cases surged in the community and some infections surfaced in schools. 

This affected students from 50 schools, with home-based learning rolled out at different times for varying periods.

“Fortunately, none of them were Covid-19-positive, as all close contacts had already been swiftly placed on leave of absence or quarantined,” he said. 

Even so, Chan stressed that home-based learning was disruptive and was not sustainable for students, parents and teachers, and must be introduced as a “last resort”.

Since early this month, the Ministry for Education (MoE) has narrowed the group of students who have to be isolated when someone in school is found to be infected.

Where possible, instead of putting students from the entire educational level on home-based learning, only close contacts and students who are in the same class or attend the same co-curricular activities as an infected case will be given leave of absence or a quarantine order.

MoE is also looking into expanding less invasive testing methods so that there are fewer disruptions for students and their families.

For example, with quicker and more regular testing using self-administered Covid-19 antigen rapid tests, students and staff members who test negative may return to school earlier.  

“Testing would allow us to be much more targeted in terms of who should stay away from school and for how long,” Chan said.

The government has also announced that unvaccinated workers from higher-risk sectors, including teachers and other school staff members, must take a Covid-19 rapid test twice a week from October 1.

Chan said that the cooperation of families, teachers, staff members and students was key to keeping schools safe.

Families with household members showing symptoms should keep their children at home and away from schools and tuition centres where other students gather.  

For their part, teachers and school staff members will remain vigilant and send students who display even mild symptoms home.

Even so, Chan said that these efforts would not completely stop coronavirus cases from emerging in schools, so long as there remains transmission in the community.

“We will do our best and remain watchful, so that students can keep learning in schools,” he said. ― TODAY

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