COVID-19: MFA advises Singaporean students overseas to consider returning soon

PHOTO: Getty Images
PHOTO: Getty Images

[UPDATE: Adding Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) advisory.]

SINGAPORE — Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Education (MOE), together with the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), have suspended all official overseas placements – including all internships and exchange programmes – until end of July.

Students who are currently on such overseas placements will be recalled as soon as is practicable, MOE said in a media release on Sunday (15 March).

MOE said the decision was taken after the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 announced new border restrictions measures over the past few days to reduce the number of imported cases into Singapore.

It added that various countries have also announced similar border measures. Many universities around the world have also announced moving to full online learning and even closed their campuses, including on campus housing.

For students concerned about loss of credits earned during their exchanges or placements, IHLs are committed to the following:

  • There will be no delay in students’ graduation. IHLs will support the affected students by providing alternative learning arrangements. This would include credit bearing modules during the summer semester or local internship placements. As most of the affected students are second or third year students, they also have the option to take additional credits in subsequent years. In the coming weeks, the IHLs will work with each affected student to finalise these alternative arrangements.

  • The alternative arrangements should not impose additional financial cost to students. All additional modules or local internships will not add to the current school fees.

MOE said it will continue to monitor the global situation and work closely with the IHLs to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our students.

MFA urges overseas S’pore students to consider returning home soon

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has on Tuesday urged Singaporean students studying overseas to consider returning home soon.

MFA said that many countries are imposing travel restrictions or closing their borders, while transport operators and airlines are cutting services. Many services and facilities, including educational institutions, have also been closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The ministry said that the Singapore government will liaise with airlines to facilitate flights to key cities when necessary, in order to cater to demand for return flights to Singapore.

It advises all overseas Singaporean students to observe the following:

  • take all necessary precautions, observe good personal hygiene, monitor local developments, and heed the advice of local authorities;

  • eRegister with the MFA at the earliest opportunity to enable MFA to contact them should the need arise. Students should also check the Ministry of Health website and MFA website for the latest measures implemented by Singapore.

  • Ensure that they will have continued access to nearby medical facilities, and that they have appropriate health insurance coverage.

  • Be prepared that these medical facilities may become overwhelmed, and may not be able to provide the same level of care and support as in Singapore.

  • Be prepared to source for alternative accommodation in the event of hostel closures.

  • Factor in the risks of severe disruption to travel routes and further travel advisories/restrictions at short notice, which may affect their travel plans to return home.

  • Discuss with their educational institutions on arrangements for them to continue their learning in Singapore.

Should the students require any assistance while overseas, they are advised to contact their educational institutions, student associations, the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission or the Singapore Global Network (hello@singaporeglobalnetwork.com) for guidance. The Ministry of Education may also be contacted at contact@moe.gov.sg.

Should they require consular assistance, please contact the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission or call the MFA duty office at +65-63798800/+65-6379 8855.

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