1 On 19 May 2020, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce outlined plans to exit the Circuit Breaker measures on 1 June 2020.
2 Preschools and Early Intervention (EI) centres will start to reopen from 2 June 2020, to allow young children to continue learning and to support parents as they return to work. The centres will reopen in phases, emphasising safety and minimising the risk of transmission.
Phased Reopening of Preschools and EI Centres
3 From 2 June 2020, preschools will begin to resume general services, to support parents who are ready to send their children back to preschools:
• Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 children may return from 2 June 2020
• Nursery 1 and Nursery 2 children may return from 8 June 2020
• Infant Care and Playgroup children may return from 10 June 2020
4 The phased reopening will better enable preschools to ensure that staff, children and parents adhere to the enhanced safe management measures which we refer to as "COVID-Safe ABCs". It will also ease the transition for the children. To minimise the risk of transmission across centres and institutes, supplementary programmes such as enrichment and early intervention services where providers may move across different centres remain suspended. We are closely monitoring the situation and will advise when it is safe to resume these activities.
5 EI centres providing the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) and centres on the Pilot for Private Intervention Providers (PPIP) scheme will also reopen from 2 June 2020 in phases, starting with in-person intervention for children with higher needs, or who are only attending EI centres. All other children on programmes at EI centres, who also attend preschool, will continue to be supported with interventions remotely to reduce transmission risk across preschools and EI centres. We will work with providers to safely and gradually resume intervention services for these children, with priority for K2 children. Details on resumption of services for these children will be announced at a later date.
COVID-Safe ABCs for Preschools and EI Centres
6 Since late January 2020, we have progressively stepped up precautionary measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in preschools and Government-funded EI centres. As we move out of the Circuit Breaker, all preschools will be required to adhere to safe management measures under "COVID-Safe ABCs" - COVID-Safe Access, COVID-Safe Behaviours, and COVID-Safe Classrooms. To instil these COVID-Safe ABCs into the daily routines of staff and children, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will work with preschools and EI centres to dedicate the first two weeks of reopening to strengthening public health awareness and building a culture of COVID-Safe habits among staff, children and their parents. This will be prioritised over resumption of normal curriculum in this initial period. ECDA will conduct visits to preschools to support the preschool community, provide guidance and ensure compliance on the necessary measures.
7 To ensure COVID-Safe Access to preschools and EI centres, we will continue to restrict entry of individuals who may pose a higher risk of transmission. The key measures include:
• Restricting entry of visitors.
• Restricting staff and children who face higher risk of infection (e.g. children with household members on HQO or SHN).
• Requiring SafeEntry and travel declarations for staff, children and visitors.
• Reinforcing strict temperature/health checks for all staff and children multiple times a day. Those who are unwell will not be allowed entry and will be asked to seek immediate medical attention. Those who become unwell during the day will be asked to leave to seek medical attention immediately. We seek the understanding of parents and employers if a child needs to be kept away for the safety of the other children and staff.
8 As part of stepped-up monitoring, all preschool and EI staff are undergoing a one-time swab test. The tests commenced on 15 May 2020 and are scheduled to complete by end-May 2020. During this proactive testing of all staff, we expect some positive cases to be identified. In such cases, we will work with affected preschools and EI centres to adjust their staffing or reopen later when it is safe to do so. After services fully resume, we will consider a risk-based testing system to protect children and staff. Under such a system, those returning from Stay-Home Notice, for example, may have to undergo testing before returning to the centre.
9 All of us play an important part in keeping our preschool and EI community safe. It is important that all staff, children and their parents adopt COVID-Safe Behaviours and norms to reduce the risk of transmission. The key measures include:
• Mask/shield to be used by all staff and children aged 2 years and older. Disposable or reusable masks, or face shields, can be used. This is not required for children below the age of 2 years for safety reasons.
• Step up handwashing and personal hygiene among children and staff.
• Step up cleaning and disinfection of premises and equipment, especially high-touch points and items.
• Size down groups for activities within each class, with no mixing between the groups.
• Refrain from cross-sharing of materials as far as possible and designate key equipment such as seats and cots.
10 Under COVID-Safe Classrooms, the intent is to minimise interaction between children and staff from different classes and the risk of transmission across classes. The key measures include:
• Keeping staff and children within their own bays, floors or classes as far as possible.
• Staggering drop-off and pick-up of children to reduce the interaction of people at arrival and dismissal.
• Staggering use of common areas and facilities by different classes to avoid interaction between classes.
• Suspending cross-deployment of staff across centres.
• Suspending cross-class activities for children and staff e.g. large group activities, enrichment programmes and staff meetings/training/gatherings.
Additional Support and Resources for Preschools and EI Centres
11 Over the past few months, several organisations have stepped forward to support preschools and EI centres by donating items such as surgical and reusable masks, and sanitisers. For example, Ramatex donated disposable children's masks, which were designed in collaboration with A*STAR. These donations have been distributed in batches in March and April 2020. Temasek Foundation's Stay Prepared initiative is providing care packs with oximeters and face shields to all staff undergoing the swab testing; as well as face shields and sanitisers to children enrolled in preschools and EI centres. The latter will be distributed to preschools and EI centres progressively from end-May. We thank the various organisations for their generous support to help instil safe management practices.
12 To further support the implementation of COVID-Safe ABCs in preschools, ECDA is working closely with industry associations such as the Association of Early Childhood & Training Services (ASSETS) and the sector to identify tools and equipment that will help preschools to put in place safe management measures. ASSETS will facilitate bulk purchases for some of these tools and equipment (e.g. disinfectant, cleaning equipment, masks and face shields).
13 Eligible preschools can qualify for up to 80 per cent subsidy from the enhanced Productivity Solutions Grant till end-2020 to implement pre-approved visitor management systems including automated temperature screening, to support 'COVID-Safe Access'. ECDA will also look at providing some support for cleaning products and supplies that support 'COVID-Safe Behaviours' such as automatic hand sanitisers and soap dispensers, to help preschools with the transition to post-Circuit Breaker safe management measures. Details will be released in due course.
Keeping COVID-Safe Together
14 Keeping the preschool and EI community COVID-Safe is a collective effort. While we step up precautionary measures for children and staff, parents and caregivers also play an important part in keeping their children safe. They should monitor the health of their children, seek medical attention promptly if the children feel unwell and not bring them to the preschools/EI centres. These children should return only when fully recovered. We seek parents' understanding if some of these measures cause inconvenience. They are necessary safety precautions during these exceptional times, and we thank everyone for their cooperation. Families can also help to reinforce good hygiene habits at home, such as the regular washing of hands with soap.
15 Our COVID-Safe ABC framework introduces strict measures to keep our preschools safe. However, with increased community and work interactions after Circuit Breaker, we anticipate some new COVID-19 cases may arise among preschool and EI staff, children and parents despite these measures and centres' best efforts. Our priority is to be able to detect and contain any confirmed cases quickly, and prevent new clusters from forming.
16 By working together and staying united, we can continue to safeguard the health and well-being of our preschool and EI community.