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askST: Why were some classmates of Covid-19 cases quarantined but others not?

SINGAPORE – The past month has seen a rising number of students infected with the coronavirus. However, not all schools have had to handle the cases in the same way.

Q: Why were some classmates of Covid-19 cases quarantined, while others were not?

A: In some of the recent Covid-19 student cases, close contacts of the infected students – including those in Yio Chu Kang Primary School, Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) and Victoria Junior College – were placed on quarantine order.

Students, staff and vendors at the schools were also swabbed.

However, as announced on May 24, such measures were not needed for students of Greendale Secondary School and Peicai Secondary School.

In these cases, the Ministry of Education said there was no need for staff or students of the school to be contact traced as the infected students were well when they were last in school.

For instance, the Greendale Secondary student was last in school on May 17 and was asymptomatic when he tested positive on May 23 – nearly one week later.

In the case of the Peicai Secondary student, he had not been in school for 16 days before developing a cough.

Consequently, staff and students of these two schools were also not put on quarantine order.

Q: What is the difference between a leave of absence, stay-home-notice, and quarantine order?

A: A quarantine order is issued to those who are suspected to be infected, or close contacts of an infected person.

It a legal order issued under the Infectious Diseases Act, with severe penalties for non-compliance.

Those under quarantine are not supposed to come into contact with others to avoid the possibility of the spread of the virus. They will need to be isolated from and cannot physically interact with others living on the same premises.

They must also not leave their designated location for any reason.

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The Ministry of Health will decide if a quarantine order should be served at home, in a dedicated Government Quarantine Facility or a hospital, based on the person’s contact history, state of health and the suitability of the home.

Those under quarantine will be swabbed during the duration of their quarantine.

A leave of absence is a precautionary measure and less stringent or severe than a quarantine order.

Those on leave of absence are strongly encouraged to remain in their residences as much as possible and minimise social contact.

They may leave their residences for daily necessities or to attend important matters, but they must minimise time spent in public spaces and contact with others.

It is not necessary for members in the same household to be segregated from the person placed on leave of absence, but they are encouraged to minimise contact with him.

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A stay-home notice (SHN) is given to travellers entering Singapore as a precautionary measure to minimise the risk of imported cases.

Those serving their SHN are not allowed to leave the place where they are serving it, which could be a home or a dedicated facility, for the stipulated period.

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