Wuhan virus: More temperature screenings at pre-schools

Wan Ting Koh

SINGAPORE — Pre-schools have stepped up vigilance in the wake of the Wuhan coronavirus, with additional temperature screenings for their children.

Parents are also required to fill in an online declaration about their travel history, while field trips to the zoos or other crowded areas have also been curtailed from this week. Outdoors activities will now take place only around neighbourhoods.

While children at the My First Skool pre-school – which takes in infants to children as old as six years old – already undergo temperature screenings twice a day to deal with the flu bug as well as the hand, foot and mouth disease, they will now have their temperatures taken thrice a day: upon their arrival, after a shower at noon, and after their nap time around 2pm to 3pm.

Their parents will also be subjected to temperature screenings.

Compulsory leave if returning from mainland China

The measures come a day after the Early Childhood Development Agency announced that pre-school students and staff returning from mainland China from 14 January will have to take a 14-day leave of absence. Singapore has some 400 pre-school operators and about 1,900 pre-school centres.

On the same day, Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that students and staff who returned from mainland China will have to take a compulsory 14-day leave of absence as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus, which has already claimed 106 lives in mainland China. There are also seven. confirmed cases so far in Singapore

The leave of absence applies to all staff and students from MOE kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, junior colleges, special education schools, Millennia Institute, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), who returned from mainland China from 15 January onwards.

A child being checked for temperature at the My First Skool pre-school branch at Buangkok Crescent. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

Measures implemented following CNY holidays

At the My First Skool pre-school branch in Buangkok Crescent on Tuesday (28 January), parents who arrived as early as 8am had their temperatures checked and hands sanitised at the branch’s doorstep, before entering its premises. They were also asked to fill in an online travel declaration form sent to them last week.

The branch is one of the more than 140 outlets adopting the preventive measures for the first time, following the Chinese New Year holiday period. Collectively, the My First Skool chain has between 18,000 and 19,000 students, and between 4,400 and 4,500 staff.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee visited the branch on Tuesday morning to observe the implementation of enhanced measures and speak with staff and parents.

Speaking to the media after his visit, he said that parents were assured by the measures taken by the pre- schools.

“Some of them of course have additional questions as to what they need to do and what are the safeguards that are in place,” Lee added.

“We will continue to keep them updated if measures need to be ramped up. The key is that the Wuhan coronavirus situation is fluid, and each sector – working together with other sectors – will continue to see what measures have to be put in place to safeguard the health and welfare of our communities.”

During Monday’s multi-ministry taskforce media conference, Lee had told the media that some 500 to 600 pre-school teachers had gone to or returned from China, while 1,000 of 180,000 pre-school children in Singapore had gone to and returned from China.

No manpower issues at My First Skool

Within the My First Skool branch, staff are also increasingly sanitising the surfaces that children come into contact with. The pre-school has also decided to forego the normal Chinese New Year celebrations, which used to have large numbers of guests; instead, it is opting for activities between students and teachers.

General manager Thian Ai Ling said that she is not aware of parents who had pulled their children from the pre-school, for fear of contracting the Wuhan Virus.

She added that her staff had prepared for the centre’s re-opening after Chinese New Year by contacting parents about the health advisory and answering their questions.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee visits the My First Skool branch at Buangkok Crescent, as the pre-school implements measures to monitor its children's health during the Wuhan virus outbreak. Beside him is pre-school general manager Thian Ai Ling. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

Despite some 2 to 3 per cent of its staff being placed on leave of absence, there was no manpower crunch across the My First Skool network, Thian said.

“The numbers are quite manageable,” she added. “Across the entire network, we don’t really have many (absences) at any one centre. In that sense, manpower crunch is not an issue.”

Parents satisfied with measures in place

Parents whom Yahoo News Singapore spoke to said that they are satisfied with the measures in place at My First Skool and will not be pulling their child out of the pre-school for now.

Software engineer Wang Yi Chuan, 25, who sent his six-year-old nephewto school, said that he was not worried about the child attending school, as it normally has temperature checks in place for its students.

When asked about the possible spread of the virus, dental assistant Fitriah said that she would not pull her four-year-old daughter out of pre-school unless there were more cases.

“I’m a bit worried. If a person goes to China, we don’t know if they stayed at home or if they went out,” she said.

INFOGRAPHIC: Wong Casandra/Yahoo News Singapore

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