Ms Joan Pereira asked the Minister for Social and Family Development with regard to children who do not have COVID-19 but experience mild symptoms such as runny nose, and whose family members are unable to take care of them due to work, limited leave and have no alternative help available to them (a) whether there are any provisions at infant care and childcare centres to accommodate these children; and (b) if so, what are they.
1. The health and well-being of children and staff in preschools is of utmost importance to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). To minimise the spread of infectious diseases, all preschools must adhere to the infection control guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health (MOH). This includes ensuring high levels of personal and environmental hygiene and monitoring children and staff closely for symptoms such as fever, cough, or runny nose.
2. These protocols pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic as they are also effective in minimising the spread of other infectious diseases such as influenza and Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD). This is why our preschools require parents to keep their unwell child at home to rest and only return to the preschool when fully recovered.
3. Preschools do make reasonable exceptions in certain cases. For example, a child may suffer from a runny nose due to allergies. If the child is assessed by a doctor to be non-infectious and certified fit to return to school, the preschool should allow the child to return. In other instances where it is difficult for the preschool to ascertain if a child who has symptoms is contagious or otherwise, we seek parents’ understanding if the centre takes the necessary precautions by asking the child to stay at home, to protect the majority of children.
4. We recognise the challenges working parents face when their child falls sick. Each working parent of a Singaporean child below 7 years old is eligible for 6 days of paid childcare leave per year, in addition to parents’ annual leave provisions. In the event parents have consumed all their leave provisions, the tripartite partners encourage employers to provide flexible work arrangements (FWAs) so that working parents can better balance their work alongside their family responsibilities.
5. The Government will continue to work with tripartite partners to encourage and support employers to implement FWAs and other family friendly measures.