There is a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases mainly attacking children in Singapore, the government’s Covid-19 task force recently announced. As a result, schools are taking a more cautious approach this time around.
The increase in Covid cases among children is the result of the new B1617 strain, also known as the double-mutant variant that’s affecting kids more than adults. The new strain was first detected in India this year.
Unfortunately, the new coronavirus strain symptoms–as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also accepted– is airborne. This increases the risk of the virus spreading faster than before.
The WHO and the US Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accept this theory.
New Coronavirus Strain Force Schools To Switch To HBL
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In a press conference on May 16, 2021, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said, “We know that there are many new strains of the Covid-19 virus – there are various new mutations and some of these mutations are much more virulent and they seem to attack younger children.
“So it is an area of concern for us, and the way we manage the situation must (be to) constantly keep abreast of such developments and pre-empt them where possible,” Chan added.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who co-chairs the task force, added, “The behaviour of the virus has not changed since last year, (in terms of just needing) one super spreading incident to spread to many. This strain is no different, but it is true that there has been literature showing that (the B1617 strain) is more virulent. Fundamentally, you’re looking at a very contagious virus.”
In light of the new coronavirus strain symptoms, the task force announced that all primary and secondary schools, junior colleges and Millennia Institute will shift to home-based learning from May 19 until the end of the term on May 28, 2021.
About seven primary schools shifted to home-based learning earlier this month after some of their pupils detected covid positive.
New Covid-19 cases detected in Singapore
As of May 16, the authorities detected 38 community cases in Singapore. About 18 cases showed no links to past cases. The high number of cases is also due to the healthcare services using rapid antigen tests.
While they are less accurate, they do offer faster results. The government plans to distribute more such kits at public health preparedness clinics soon.
That said, Mr Chan said that there is no conclusive evidence yet of transmission within schools so far. All detected cases among students have been outside schools.
Vaccinating Young People In Singapore
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Despite restrictions, the evolving nature of the Covid-19 virus has made it difficult to control as the rapid spike in cases is visible in different countries. It is likely then that the pandemic is here to stay for longer than we would like.
Mr Chan said, “Singapore must be prepared to live in a world where Covid-19 could be endemic. The home-based (learning) option may not be a sustainable solution and we need different tools in our toolkits to manage the situation.”
This remains the only way to curb the coronavirus from spreading in children under the age of 16 years. At present, the vaccines available have only completed clinical trials for adults.
It was only after the first approvals that vaccine manufacturers began clinical trials for younger groups.
At present, Pfizer-BioNTech is one of the many pharma companies working on clinical trials to develop the vaccine for children. With respect to administering the vaccines to younger people, Mr Chan says that the Ministry of Education has worked out plans with the Ministry of Health for the same.
Beware! The Virus Is Airborne: What Parents Must Know About It
A recent study authored by 39 scientists from 14 countries is demanding universal recognition that infections can be prevented by improving indoor ventilation systems. The study states that the virus multiplies in the respiratory tract, and emits through an infected person’s nose and throat.
This leads to the visible spatters of spittle settling on the ground or nearby surfaces. Tiny aerosols with the virus are blown further and can stay on for longer, based on the airflow, temperature, and humidity levels.
With indoor ventilation, the chances of the virus staying alive and infecting people are higher. As more people spend time indoors, a break-in could affect the young and old in the house.
For now, officials recommend wearing a face mask in public areas. At home, make sure to sanitise every item brought from outside. Meanwhile, scientists have endorsed additional precautions such as increasing ventilation and avoiding recirculating potentially virus-laden air in buildings.