Schools moving to home-based learning in ‘circuit breaker’ move

MOST workplaces will be closed from next Tuesday and all schools will move to full home-based learning a day later, as Singapore puts in place a “circuit breaker” to pre-empt escalating coronavirus cases, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Except for key economic sectors and essential services – such as food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport and key banking services – all other work premises will close, said Lee yesterday in an address to the nation on the Covid-19 situation.

All schools and institutes of higher learning will close and move to home-based learning from next Wednesday, after schools piloted a day of home-based learning this week.

Pre-school and student care services will also be closed, but would provide “limited services for children of parents who have to continue working”, he said.

Explaining why the government decided to take such a step, the Prime Minister said Singapore had routinely seen more than 50 new cases daily over the past two weeks, despite the authorities’ best efforts to curb the outbreak.

“Initially, many of the new cases were imported from overseas, mostly returning Singaporeans. Then last week, we began to have more local cases.

“Furthermore, despite our good contact tracing, for nearly half of these cases, we do not know where or from whom the person caught the virus, ” he said.

“This suggests that there are more people out there who are infected, but who have not been identified and may be passing the virus unknowingly to others.”

While the situation remained under control, the government had decided to “make a decisive move now, to pre-empt escalating infections”, said Lee.

“Looking at the trend, I am worried that unless we take further steps, things will gradually get worse or another big cluster may push things over the edge, ” he added.“We have decided that instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now, to pre-empt escalating infections.

“We will therefore impose significantly stricter measures. This is like a circuit breaker, ” he said.

“It will help reduce the risk of a big outbreak occurring and should also help to gradually bring our numbers down. This in turn will allow us to relax some of the measures. This circuit breaker will apply for one month in the first instance.”

Lee said the government would also tighten restrictions on gatherings, adding that it boiled down to three things.

“First, stay at home, as much as possible. Second, avoid socialising with others beyond your own household, ” he said, adding that people should not visit relatives who were not staying with them, especially if they were elderly or vulnerable.

Third, people should go out only to do essential things – to buy food at markets, take out from restaurants or exercise in the park, keeping a safe distance from others, he added. — The Straits Times/ANN

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