Singapore warns of new strains of virus infecting more children, closes schools
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Singapore will close schools from Wednesday as authorities warn new strains of coronavirus like the one first detected in India are affecting more children in the city-state.
The government has tightened restrictions following a recent surge in local transmissions after months of near zero cases.
In a virtual press conference on Sunday evening, authorities announced that primary and secondary schools as well as colleges will switch to full home learning from Wednesday until the end of the school term on May 28.
Hours before Sunday’s press conference, Singapore confirmed 38 locally transmitted coronavirus cases, the highest daily number in eight months. Some of the cases involved children linked to a group in a training center.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, citing a conversation he had with the ministry’s director of medical services, Kenneth Mak, told a press conference on Sunday that the B.1.617 strain “appears to further affect children “.
The strain was first detected in India.
“Some of these mutations are much more virulent and they seem to attack younger children,” Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said at the press conference.
“This is a matter of concern to all of us,” he said, adding, however, that none of the children who had been infected were seriously ill.
The government is “making plans” to vaccinate students under the age of 16, Chan said in a Facebook post.
Financial center joins Taiwan to close schools to stem spike in infections.
Taiwan’s capital Taipei and neighboring New Taipei announced Monday that schools will suspend classes from Tuesday to May 28.
Taiwan, which came out relatively unscathed last year, announced another 333 local cases on Monday, bringing the total to just over 2,000.
The increase in local transmissions in Singapore is likely to sabotage a non-quarantine travel bubble with Hong Kong, which is expected to begin on May 26 after a previous unsuccessful attempt.
Singapore has limited public gatherings to two, restaurants banned and gyms closed in an attempt to stop the spike in infections.
Authorities have also banned non-passengers from entering the airport terminal and closed an adjacent shopping center as around 9,000 workers undergo testing.
Singapore had to contend with severe coronavirus outbreaks last year when the disease broke into crowded dormitories housing low-paid foreign workers, infecting tens of thousands.
But by global standards, its outbreak has been mild – officials in the city of 5.7 million people have reported more than 61,000 cases to date and 31 deaths.
© 2021 AFP