Saturday, 16 May 2020

All pre-school staff to take COVID-19 swab test before centres reopen

Tests will be done between 15 and 26 May at four segregated centres in polytechnics
By Jolene Ang and Amelia Teng and Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 15 May 2020

All pre-school staff will undergo a one-time swab test for COVID-19 starting today, before the centres reopen. The test, which is a precautionary measure, will cover principals, teachers and the carers who look after infants and toddlers.

Cleaners, cooks and relief and new staff starting work next month will also have to undergo the test.

The Early Childhood Development Agency's (ECDA) chief licensing officer Jamie Ang announced the need for swab tests in a circular to operators on Wednesday.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) will conduct the tests for staff between today and May 26 at four swabbing centres located in polytechnics, in areas segregated from the rest of the campus.

In the circular seen by The Straits Times, Ms Ang said that to allow for faster testing, a pooled approach will be used, where swab samples from up to five individuals will be tested in one batch, instead of individually.

The ECDA said that as Singapore looks to gradually resume services safely, testing and monitoring will be stepped up especially among priority groups like seniors and children.

Testing at pre-schools has been prioritised, as staff have close and constant contact with young children in an enclosed setting.

Most staff will be required to do only one swab test, but a small number may have to return for a second individual test if the first batch test is positive, Ms Ang said.

Children will not be tested as evidence indicates they are typically infected by adults, and not by their peers, she added.

The Government will bear the cost of the swab test exercise, given the sizeable number of staff - around 30,000 - that are involved.

Non-anchor operator pre-schools will need to register staff in groups of five for the swab test, while anchor operators are coordinating with the HPB and ECDA to schedule appointments.

Staff are allowed to make their way to the four swabbing centres only via an authorised shuttle bus, which they can take from nearby MRT stations at Woodlands, Tampines West, Dover and Khatib.

Meanwhile, individuals at a higher risk of infection, such as children and staff returning after a stay-home notice period, may have to undergo further testing before returning to pre-school.

A number of pre-schools had to be closed earlier after reporting COVID-19 infections.

Until May 7, the disease had infected 57 children - those aged 16 and younger - in Singapore.

The tests are the latest precautionary measures implemented since January to keep pre-schools safe. Earlier measures include restricting visitors, and tighter and more frequent health checks.

Mr Vincent Yap, company director of Eshkol Valley Preschool, which has about 70 staff across three centres, said the move might inconvenience some staff. "But we understand this is a precautionary move. It is a step in the right direction, in preparation to reopen pre-schools."

Private tutor Nurul Huda, 34, who has two children in a kindergarten, had doubts about sending them back to school. "But with this initiative... I am more assured," she said.

COVID-19 swabbers and swab assistants wanted, pay starts at $3,400 a month
Swabbers employed on short-term contracts with no additional bonuses, career pathways: MOH
By Hidayah Iskandar, The Straits Times, 15 May 2020

As the fight against COVID-19 in Singapore continues, the Health Promotion Board, with the assistance of NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), is hiring swabbers and swabbing assistants to support wider COVID-19 swab testing efforts.

e2i, a tripartite initiative of the National Trades Union Congress set up to support nationwide manpower and skills upgrading initiatives, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday (May 12) that the swabbers would provide support in COVID-19 operations and in community care.

Swabbers are required to perform nasopharyngeal swab procedures - a method of collecting clinical test samples from the back of the nose and throat by inserting a swab into the nostril.

The employment offered is a short-term contract for swab operations, for instance swabbing of foreign workers in dormitories, and does not provide any progression pathway unlike full-time healthcare professional roles in the public healthcare system, said the Ministry of Health.

Neither does it include any additional allowances or bonuses.

Successful candidates will start off as swab assistants with a monthly salary of $3,400.

Those who become swabbers after training and assessment will earn $3,800 a month.

On the sign-up sheet for the position, e2i said training on how to perform swab procedures, including familiarisation with all aspects of the personal protective equipment, will be provided.

It added that for individuals who are unable to be mask-fitted, other roles can be explored.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin talked about the recruitment drive when he said: “The jobs scene will be of concern as the COVID impact on the economy begins to bite. It will begin to get even more serious.

Mr Tan added that this was part of a bigger effort to create more new jobs whether on a temporary basis or more long term.

Other responsibilities of swabbers include checking clients for any respiratory symptoms and coordinating with doctors to swab and attend to isolated clients who have declared positive for respiratory symptoms.

Successful candidates will be posted to places such as community recovery facilities, government quarantine facilities and nursing homes.

Swabbers and swab assistants will rotate six working days a week for six months with the option to extend for another three months.

Those who wish to apply must ensure they are medically fit with no history of chronic diseases and must be proficient in English and one mother tongue.

Applicants must also be able to work in shifts or extended hours and over weekends if required.

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