Education

Singapore can't rule out suspension of schools if virus situation worsens, education minister says

Key Points
  • Singapore has chosen not to shut down schools, even as the country races to contain the new coronavirus.
  • "No single measure is foolproof," said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung. Suspending schools has both pros and cons, he told CNBC.
  • Singapore has so far reported 117 confirmed cases. As of 12:00 p.m. HK/SIN on Mar. 5, the country had 36 active cases of the coronavirus and 81 have been discharged, according to data from Singapore's Ministry of Health. 
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Singapore's decision to keep schools open for now was based on 'evidence and risk', says minister

As governments race to contain the new coronavirus that has infected more than 90,000 globally, countries like Japan, Hong Kong and Italy have shut down schools temporarily.

Singapore, however, has chosen not to do the same.

Explaining the rationale behind such a decision, Singapore's Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said: "So far the data has come out ... I think it helped that children are less susceptible and when/if they get it, symptoms are mild."

Singapore has so far reported 117 confirmed cases. As of 12:00 p.m. HK/SIN on Mar. 5, the country had 36 active cases of the coronavirus and 81 have been discharged, according to data from Singapore's Ministry of Health. 

Suspending schools has both pros and cons, Ong told CNBC's "Squawk Box"on Friday. "No single measure is foolproof," he said.

Elaborating on why schools should remain open, Ong said: "If you suspend schools, I think children are cooped up at home. Homes are where infections happen as well. And if you inspect homes, viruses are everywhere. Whereas in our weather, wide open spaces, sunshine, viruses don't survive very well."

Furthermore, children might still go out even if you try to keep them at home, he said.

"It's a big disruption to people's lives. I think it's happening in Italy. It's happening in Japan," Ong said. "When (you're) cooped up at home, it just disrupts lives a great deal. It is not without costs."

Still, the education minister did not rule out the possibility that schools could be closed if the situation gets worse.

He said that if the number of cases start to rise and there's a "big risk of importation," there may be a need to implement social distancing  — "which may have to include suspending of schools."

"We can't rule that out," he added.