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Expanded Surveillance Testing for COVID-19 Surfaces Five Confirmed Cases for Schools

1. As we exit the Circuit Breaker period, the Government is stepping up testing efforts to identify COVID-19 cases earlier and quickly contain any potential spread in the community. As part of this effort, since 2 June 2020, we extended surveillance testing for COVID-19 for all school staff and students above the age of 121 who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection (ARI) at first presentation to a doctor, instead of only for those with prolonged symptoms.

2. Since 2 June 2020, we have been testing school staff and older students with ARI symptoms. Amongst them, five have been confirmed to have COVID-19. These cases are part of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in the community which the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced today.

3. Of the five cases, four are students and one is a non-teaching staff. They are from five different schools – Anglican High School, CHIJ Katong Convent, CHIJ St. Theresa's Convent, Geylang Methodist Secondary School and Hwa Chong Institution – and are not a cluster. The student from Hwa Chong Institution was last in school on 7 April, before the start of the Circuit Breaker. Of the other four cases, three were last in school on 3 June, while one was last in school on 2 June.

4. All five cases displayed mild symptoms, with the onset of symptoms being 3 June for three cases, and 2 June and 31 May for the remaining two cases. While positive, the tests for all five cases revealed low viral loads. A repeat test using new samples showed that all five cases were negative. The evidence suggests that they were likely infected during the Circuit Breaker period, and not after school re-opening.

5. Like all schools, the affected schools have implemented precautionary measures to ensure the safety of students and staff, and minimise the risk of transmission. The five students and staff were screened on entry with no fever or visible flu-like symptoms. Other precautionary measures include spaced seating to ensure safe distancing, the wearing of face masks, cohorting by class, and minimising intermingling across classes and levels. The schools have also been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, following confirmation of the COVID-19 cases.

6. Contact tracing and investigations are currently ongoing. Altogether, 29 staff and 100 students who were in contact with the confirmed cases in school have each been issued with a 14-day Leave of Absence (LOA) by MOE or Home Quarantine Order (HQO) by MOH. Those who are on HQO will also be swabbed for COVID-19 twice – once before the start of HQO, and once at the end of HQO.

7. The arrangements for all schools, including the five affected schools, will remain unchanged. This means that for this coming week starting 8 June 2020, for example, Primary 1, 2, 3 and 6 students, plus Secondary 3, 4 and 5 students will attend classes in school, while the remaining levels will be on Home-Based Learning, based on the earlier announced weekly rotation schedule.

8. Some of the students on LOA have registered for the Mother Tongue Language (MTL) examinations on 18 June. As their LOA ends on 17 June, they can still take the examination. The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board will apply special consideration during grading for these students. They can also choose to take the year-end MTL examinations instead.

9. Our schools have implemented a set of comprehensive safe management measures to bring students back in a careful and safe manner. Nevertheless, it is extremely important that each of us exercises personal responsibility. We would like to remind all parents, staff and students that if a student or any family member is unwell, the student should not go to school. This is crucial to keeping schools going.

10. We would also like to assure all parents and students that while we expect from time to time to see such confirmed cases being reported through a more extensive COVID-19 testing regime, we will continue to quickly isolate those who are at risk of being infected through LOA and HQO. This will prevent transmissions and enable the rest of the school system to continue to function.


Footnotes
  1. For younger students, swabbing may be uncomfortable for them and requires healthcare professionals with special expertise. Nonetheless, students 12 years old and below will still be tested if they persistently display respiratory symptoms.
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