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Ong Ye Kung announces all students will return to school come June 29, netizen warns “Look at what happened in Beijing!”

Many people voiced out their concerns on the children's safety, one Facebook user Anita Hemco cited Beijing as a case example and also brought up the issue of needing more face masks for the children

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Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has announced that come June 29, all students will be returning to school daily. In response to this announcement, some netizens have raised safety concerns, given the looming threat of Covid-19. One even pointed to the case of Beijing, where the Chinese government had to cancel flights and shut down schools due to the virus.

Mr Ong took to Facebook on Wednesday (June 17) to announce the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s plan of action for the end of June. “Come 29 June, all students will return to school daily,” wrote Mr Ong, after disclosing that the weekly rotation system will not be extended.

“Having all students back in school at the same time is a significant step,” he said. “So, we will not ease the restrictions on other fronts such as PE and CCAs too much, even as social restrictions are eased considerably.” Mr Ong also addressed several key questions raised by parents with regards to the Phase 2 system of schools.

With regard to ensuring that safe distance measures are adhered to during group activities such as PE, he said, “(A)ctivities will be limited to those that have minimal physical contact,” citing sports like badminton, table tennis, and sepak takraw. There will be a limit of five individuals per group.

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As for co-curricular activities (CCA)s, Mr Ong said that schools will not be resuming the usual CCAs, but would shift them to a digital platform. “This is possible for activities such as robotics, computer programming or art,” said Mr Ong, before explaining that for activities that are better held face-to-face, “schools will explore doing so at a class level.”

The last concern he addressed in his post was that of face-to-face lessons at homes in light of tuition and enrichment centres set to resume operations in Phase 2. Mr Ong clarified that from June 19, face-to-face lessons conducted in homes can resume, though the five individuals cap and one metre social distance measures should be observed. Furthermore, face masks are to be donned, temperature checks and health declarations must be conducted, and SafeEntry must be used in order to help contact tracing efforts.

To conclude his post, Mr Ong said, “Whatever we do, we should not let our guard down.”

Though there were those who expressed support for Mr Ong, there were also those who raised questions regarding safety. While one netizen shared, “I think it’s better to resume CCA when everything is deemed safe to be in close proximity to people,” another reminded Mr Ong of the case in Bejing.

Facebook user Anita Hemco wrote, “Agree–we should not let our guard down. Look at what happened in Beijing!” before raising concerns over face masks for children. “The kids will need more masks. The previous masks given out are only good for 30 washes (one month). I hope more of these better quality masks will be given to the kids…or at least be more widely sold.”

According to a report by the New York Times, schools in Beijing, China, have been closed due to a spike in Covid-19 cases.

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