Singapore closes colleges as coronavirus instances rise

People take their lunch break in the Raffles Place financial district in Singapore on May 5, 2021.

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Singapore will close most schools from Wednesday after the city-state reported the highest number of local COVID-19 infections in months, including several that were unrelated, on Sunday, according to authorities.

All primary, secondary and junior colleges will switch to full home learning from Wednesday through the end of the school year on May 28th.

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

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

Singapore has reported more than 61,000 virus cases, with the majority linked to dormitory outbreaks of foreign workers last year and 31 deaths. The new cases on Sunday were the highest number of local infections outside of the dormitories in a year.

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

The Asian commercial and financial center with 5.7 million inhabitants had until recently reported almost zero or single-digit daily infections locally for months.

Although Singapore’s daily cases are still only a fraction of the numbers reported among its Southeast Asian neighbors, infections have increased in recent weeks. As of Sunday, the government rolled out its toughest restrictions on gatherings and public activities since a lockdown last year.

Over a fifth of the country’s population has completed the vaccination schedule with two doses of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The authorities will invite people under 45 years of age to take pictures from the second half of May.

The speed of the vaccination program in Singapore is limited by the pace of arrival of vaccine supplies. Experts are investigating whether to give a dose of the vaccine and lengthen the interval between shots, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said.

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

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