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Doctor: Why reopen schools during “weak” Covid-19 prevention measures?

Minister criticised for recommending "flimsy" face shields to students who are not comfortable with masks

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Singapore — A doctor has questioned Education Minister Ong Ye Kung’s decision to reopen schools in phases from June 2 since she believes the current Covid-19 prevention measures are “weak”. She also criticised him for recommending “flimsy” face shields to returning students who are not comfortable with masks.

This is not the first time someone has raised concerns about the timing of the reopening of schools.

From June 2, students in graduating cohorts like those in Primary 6 go back to school every day. Students in the remaining grades will take turns under a rotation scheme to go to school on certain weeks and complete home-based learning (HBL) in the remaining weeks. All students are expected to return to school full-time in four weeks after the reopening.

In a Facebook post on Thursday (May 21), Mr Ong had addressed the top 3 concerns he had encountered from parents since his ministry announced the decision to reopen schools in phases. There were concerns about the rotation scheme and HBL. Mr Ong explained the pros and cons of both.

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Some parents were concerned that their children would have problems wearing masks for the whole day. Mr Ong told them that students “can wear either a face mask or a face shield when in school or on campus”. He added that schools were planning to distribute face shields to all preschool and primary school students.

Dr Mary Tan, an anaesthesiologist who practices at Mount Alvernia Hospital, pointed out that face shields — which are a plastic piece secured in front of the face with a headband — have zero filtration and do not protect wearers from respiratory droplets.

Noting that the Government had rectified the initial “mistake” of telling people that they did not need to wear masks by later making it mandatory for them to do so in public, Dr Tan asked why the Government was now regressing in its stance on masks and telling the public that it was fine to use face shields, which she described as “flimsy”. She wrote:

Dr Tan said that doctors like her are “already very concerned with leakiness around normal surgical face masks” and asked about the scientific basis for the Government to recommend the use of face shields. She said:

Mr Ong has yet to respond to Dr Tan’s comments. /TISG

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