SINGAPORE – Children under the age of 12 in Singapore infected with Covid-19 have been observed with mild disease, with none of them requiring intensive care or oxygen support, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing told Parliament on Monday (Aug 2).
As for inoculation against the coronavirus, he said the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination is monitoring ongoing vaccination trials for children under 12 and will make recommendations when it is ready.
Outlining what has been done to keep young children safe, he said schools will continue to fine-tune their safe management measures as the country moves towards dealing with Covid-19 as an endemic disease.
Mr Chan was responding to Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC), who had asked about the assessed risk level for children under 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated, as Singapore moves back to phase 2 (heightened alert).
The minister said that international experience and data on Covid-19 infections have thus far shown that the disease outcome is much less severe for children than older adults and the elderly.
“In Singapore, we have so far observed mild disease in local cases aged under 12 years, even with the Delta variant,” he said, adding that none of them have required intensive care unit or oxygen support.
He said that managing Covid-19, whether nationally or in school settings, involves managing risks and balancing trade-offs.
The past few months have given the authorities more confidence that a better balance can be struck by taking a more targeted approach to ringfence cases and their close contacts when they arise, added Mr Chan.
“The alternative to full home-based learning on a prolonged basis comes at a cost to the learning… of our young and it takes a toll on their mental wellness, and places additional stress on the educators, parents, and students,” he said.
The negative impact falls disproportionately also on the lower-income families.
“We will continue to fine-tune how we manage school cases and ensure its sustainability, as we transit to living with Covid-19 as an endemic disease,” he added.
In a follow-up question, Ms He asked what has been done to address the concerns of parents who feel their young children might be vulnerable to the disease, such as those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Mr Chan said ensuring that measures are sustainable is important for children to continue learning in as normal an environment as possible, as there is no certainty over how long the disease will continue to be around and when the appropriate vaccine will arrive.
Such measures include having good personal hygiene and cohorting classes to minimise the chances of the disease spreading.
Future mass testing capabilities that are less intrusive would be another tool for more activities to be opened up, by allowing more people to be tested more regularly, including children, he added.