Parents alarmed over rising clusters in schools

PETALING JAYA: Concerns over the rising number of Covid-19 clusters in the education sector are causing sleepless nights for many parents as they worry that their children may contract the virus at physical classes and lectures.

Parents are urging for all parties to play their part in keeping schools safe by strictly following standard operating procedure (SOP) and taking frequent Covid-19 self-tests in order to stop new clusters at schools and educational institutions.

Liana Mohd, 29, is worried and disappointed to read reports that close to 5,000 cases have been reported between Jan 1 and 25 involving the education sector.

“It gives me anxiety... thinking when will all this end and what will it take to keep our children safe?

“After two years, I feel like the government has tried to put things in place such as the standard operating procedure (SOP) and now the onus is on us.

“We have to trust the science and go ahead with vaccinating our young ones to protect them against the virus.

“We also have to frequently do self-testing. All of us should do it including parents, children and teachers,” said the mother of a six-year-old girl.

Initially hesitant, Liana decided to sign her daughter up for the Covid-19 immunisation programme after she read that the lower dosage given to children was low-risk and safe. She wanted extra protection for her child.

Liana had also consulted her daughter’s paediatrician, who assured her that he is prepared to help Liana’s daughter in the face of any adverse reactions or side effects after taking the vaccine.

“He walked me through what to look out for and after listening to his explanation, I felt it was safe. I’m doing this to protect my daughter,” she said.

The country’s education sector recorded an increase in Covid-19 clusters after the reopening of the school session in 2022.

Since the start of the new year until Jan 25, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said 107 Covid-19 clusters were recorded in the education sector involving 4,633 cases.

Another parent, Jessica Lee, 37, is worried that her 10-year-old son, who attends a primary school near here, would catch the virus at school after reading reports that the number of education clusters had risen following the reopening of schools in January.

“The Covid-19 vaccination programme for children has also started but I’m not sure if this will solve all the problem of new clusters emerging in schools.

“Every few days, I would hear of so and so at the school getting infected and I can’t help but be concerned about it.

“I feel like asking parents to vaccinate their children in order to curb cases at schools but it is a bit unfair because vaccination for kids is still a grey area and I still have a lot of questions about it,” said the corporate communications manager.

Lee hopes that school administrators would focus on improving the ventilation in classrooms, offices, toilets as well as other rooms, as a way to curb the spread of the virus among children.

She also encourages all adults and their children to frequently do self-testing in order to detect Covid-19 early.

Mariam Md Salleh, 35, who has two children aged nine and 10, is also worried over the possibility of her kids getting infected. She feels more should be done to curb the spread of the virus among schoolchildren.

“They are kids and can be taught the SOP but you can’t expect them to really follow 100% as they don’t fully understand everything and this is all very alien to them.

“The schools can only do so much but they should definitely have more safeguards in place with stricter monitoring to ensure that every necessary precaution has been taken,” said the homemaker.

Knowing that vaccination does not stop someone from getting infected, Mariam said she was hesitant about getting her children inoculated as they were still young.

“The vaccine will not magically stop the clusters. What’s more important are the precautions we take such as adhering to the SOP strictly and doing self-testing,” she said, adding that she would continue to consult her children’s paediatrician about the vaccine.

Parent Action Group for Education (Page) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim stressed on the importance of self-testing in order to curb the spread of the virus in schools that created new clusters.

“We believe that as Covid-19 gets milder, patients who are infected may think they just have the flu.

“Some do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. Most do not get tested. Some who are infected but feel they are able to function do not quarantine themselves as they are still able to carry on with their daily routine which leads to a growing number of clusters,” she said.

As such, Noor Azimah encouraged all parents, students and teachers to strictly adhere to tightened SOP in schools.

“They should do self-tests often and if infected, quarantine as prescribed in order to prevent more cases,” she said.

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