Singapore

All pre-school staff to get tested for coronavirus

Until May 26, employees will be tested at 4 swabbing centres, with pooled approach used for faster testing

All pre-school staff will undergo a one-time swab test for Covid-19 starting today, before the centres reopen.

The test, which is a precautionary measure, will cover principals, teachers and the carers who look after infants and toddlers. Cleaners, cooks and relief and new staff starting work in June will also have to undergo the test.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) chief licensing officer Jamie Ang announced the need for swab tests in a circular to operators on Wednesday.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) will conduct the tests for staff between today and May 26 at four swabbing centres located in polytechnics, in areas segregated from the rest of the campus.

In the circular seen by The Straits Times, Ms Ang said to allow for faster testing, a pooled approach will be used, where swab samples from up to five individuals will be tested in one batch, instead of individually.

The ECDA said that as Singapore looks to gradually resume services safely, testing and monitoring will be stepped up especially among priority groups such as seniors and children.

Kindergartens run by the Ministry of Education will reopen on June 2. The ECDA will announce later when other pre-schools can resume full services.

Testing at pre-schools has been prioritised, as staff have close and constant contact with young children in an enclosed setting.

Most staff will be required to do only one swab test, but a small number may have to return for a second individual test if the first batch test is positive, Ms Ang said.

Children will not be tested as evidence indicates they are typically infected by adults and not by their peers, she added.

The Government will bear the cost of the swab test exercise given the sizeable number of employees - around 30,000 - that are involved.

Non-anchor operator pre-schools will need to register staff in groups of five for the swab test, while anchor operators are coordinating with the HPB and ECDA to schedule appointments.

Staff are allowed to make their way to the four swabbing centres only via an authorised shuttle bus, which they can take from nearby MRT stations at Woodlands, Tampines West, Dover and Khatib.

Meanwhile, individuals at a higher risk of infection, such as children and staff returning after a stay-home notice period, may have to undergo further testing before returning to pre-school.

A number of pre-schools had to be closed earlier after reporting Covid-19 infections.

Until May 7, the disease had infected 57 children - those aged 16 and younger - in Singapore.

The tests are the latest precautionary measures implemented since January to keep pre-schools safe. Earlier measures include restricting visitors, and tighter and more frequent health checks.

Education