Singapore shuts schools as coronavirus cases rise

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People walk on their lunch break at Singapore’s Raffles Place financial business district on May 5, 2021.

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Singapore will close most schools from Wednesday after the city-state reported the largest number of local cases of COVID-19 in months, including many that have been unlinked, according to authorities on Sunday.

All elementary, secondary, and junior colleges will switch to full home learning from Wednesday through the end of the term on May 28.

“Some of these (viral) mutations are more virulent, and seem to attack younger children,” said Education Minister Chan Chun Singh.

On Sunday, Singapore confirmed 38 local cases of COVID-19, the highest daily number since mid-September, of which 18 are currently unrelated.

Singapore has reported more than 61,000 cases of the virus, the bulk of which were related to last year’s outbreak in foreign workers’ dormitories, and 31 deaths. Sunday, new cases were the largest number of local infections outside homes in a year.

“The sharp rise in the number of community cases today requires us to drastically reduce our movements and interactions in the coming days,” Chan added.

Until recently, the Asian commercial and financial hub of 5.7 million had reported nearly zero or one-digit daily injuries locally for several months.

Although daily cases in Singapore are still a fraction of the numbers reported among its Southeast Asian neighbors, infections have been increasing in recent weeks. As of Sunday, the government implemented its most stringent restrictions on public gatherings and activities since the lockdown last year.

More than a fifth of the country’s population has completed the two-dose vaccination regimen with vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Authorities will invite people under the age of 45 to receive the shots starting in the second half of May.

The speed of Singapore’s vaccination program is being limited by the pace of vaccine supplies. Health Minister Ong Yi Kung said that experts are studying whether a single dose of the vaccine should be given and the interval between injections should be extended.

The government is also working on plans to vaccinate children under the age of 16 once regulatory approval is granted.

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