Mr Mohd Fahmi Bin Aliman asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether additional precautions will be taken for pre-school students taking part in indoor activities during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert); (b) whether additional precautions will be taken for pre-school teachers amid Phase 2 (Heightened Alert); and (c) whether the Ministry is considering remote learning options for pre-school students and teachers during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).
1. The safety and wellbeing of children and staff in preschools is of utmost importance. To ensure this, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has enhanced safe management measures in preschools, in consultation with the Ministry of Health (MOH).
2. ECDA requires all preschools to observe strict safe management measures. These include:
a. Tighter measures to restrict entry of persons that pose transmission risks such as by restricting visitors, more frequent health checks for staff and children, and disallowing entry of persons who are unwell. As an added precaution, ECDA also introduced a Leave of Absence (LOA) policy for children or staff staying with household members who are on Home Quarantine Order (HQO) or SHN1 .
b. Enhanced personal and environmental hygiene practices such as more frequent handwashing and cleaning of high touch points.
c. Tighter measures to reduce transmission across groups in preschool by ensuring that children and staff are cohorted by class and do not mix across classes.
3. During Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), we had further tightened safe management measures in preschools:
a. To further reduce transmission across groups in the preschool. The enhanced measures included reduction of group sizes for outdoor activities and suspension of large group activities and activities at external venues, such as field trips.
b. To further enhance environmental hygiene practices. Preschools have been directed to enhance ventilation of indoor premises. This includes working with facility managers to ensure that ventilation systems are adequate and in good order, and installing fans and opening windows and doors as frequently as possible.
c. To further restrict entry of persons that pose transmission risks. Since 8 June 2021, ECDA has also tightened the LOA policy. Besides issuing LOA to children or staff staying with household members placed on HQO or SHN, preschools must also issue LOA to children or staff staying with household members who have to serve QOs at a Government Quarantine Facility (GQF), until their household member receives a negative test result on entry. Preschools will also issue a LOA if the child or staff is undergoing mandatory testing, for example, testing for all residents of a particular HDB block or workplace cluster due to potential exposure to COVID-19 cases. All preschools must now inform all parents in a class if a child or staff in the class is placed on QO and encourage parents to keep children at home until the Person under Quarantine (PUQ) receives a negative entry test result. If the PUQ was recently unwell, all children or staff who are in the same class as the PUQ will be issued LOAs.
4. To complement safe management measures in preschools, vaccination for staff in preschools has also been prioritised and progressively offered since early March 2021. This is so that preschool staff can better protect the children under their care, who are not yet eligible for vaccination, as well as better protect themselves and their families. As at 19 June 2021, about 85% of preschool staff have completed both doses or received their first dose.
5. Under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), from 16 May to 13 June 2021, preschools had remained open to support parents who need to work. Parents were encouraged to keep their children at home during this period where possible. To support preschools and parents keeping their children at home during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), MSF and ECDA waived the minimum attendance requirement to ensure that preschool subsidies and Child Care Financial Assistance (CCFA) continued to flow fully to parents. ECDA also shared home-based activity resources developed by the sector with preschools and parents, which they could make use of to engage their children at home. These resources are available on ECDA’s website and more will be provided over time.
6. With the Multi-Ministry Taskforce’s direction to gradually move back to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) from 14 June 2021, ECDA has adopted a conservative, calibrated approach to enable activities to resume safely. ECDA will continue to review and adjust measures in line with the national posture and in consultation with MOH, to safeguard the health and well-being of preschool children and staff.
7. Keeping our preschool community safe and healthy is a collective effort. Hence, we urge the preschool community to continue to be vigilant and take all necessary precautions against the spread of COVID-19 infections. We also urge parents to monitor their children’s health closely and seek immediate medical advice if their child is unwell. Children who are unwell should stay at home to rest, and return to preschool only when they have fully recovered.
 For staff staying with household members under HQO or SHN, preschools may issue LOA to the staff or redeploy them to back-end administrative tasks. From 8 June 2021, this measure was tightened further such that preschools may choose to lift the LOA and redeploy the staff to back-end administrative tasks only after the staff’s household member under QO tests negative for their entry swab test.