Covid-19 outbreak at PJ school sparks anxiety among parents as authorities decline temporary shutdown

Soo Wern Jun
·4-min read
A general view of SJK(C) Puay Chai 2 in Bandar Utama, April 12, 2021. — Picture by Choo Choy May
A general view of SJK(C) Puay Chai 2 in Bandar Utama, April 12, 2021. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 April — Six students tested positive for Covid-19 recently at SJK (C) Puay Chai 2, a primary school in the upper-middle class neighbourhood of Bandar Utama, Selangor.

Its Parent Teacher Association chairman Loh Tian Hong told Malay Mail the dreaded coronavirus has infected the entire family of one student and 11 teachers have so far been placed under home quarantine.

“The first case was reported to the school on April 7, while the second was on April 9.

“Last night [April 11], two more cases were reported and both were from the same family,” Loh said when contacted yesterday.

Malay Mail also contacted Puay Chai 2’s principal Soh Swee Koon who confirmed sending out a circular to parents informing them about the outbreak. But she declined to comment on the current situation.

Loh said it has been one week since the outbreak at the school and parents are agitated as they have not been told what is going on.

He said the school headmistress applied to the Health Ministry for a temporary closure to prevent the virus from spreading but was rejected as the authorities did not view the outbreak as a Covid-19 cluster.

Loh said some of the parents were in favour of the entire school being shut, but the rest do not share that view.

The infected students are in Years Two, Four and Five.

The school remained open at the time of reporting, with only five classes shut down for the time being.

“To most parents’ understanding, this is a cluster. But the authorities said this cannot be considered as a cluster as the student who is tested positive did not contract the virus from the school.

“But what they don't know is that, two students who tested positive, their parents tested negative.

“So how did they get it in the first place?” Loh asked.

He said some parents suspect the school outbreak began with one of the students, but he said the authorities have not shared any information about their investigations of the origin.

“We are still unsure of who is the index case of these six students.

“So the safest thing to do is to ask everyone from the five classes, including the 11 teachers who taught the classes, to undergo home quarantine,” he said.

According to Loh, the 11 teachers tested negative while students in three of the five classes were screened yesterday and have yet to get their lab results.

He added that the district health department is arranging to screen the remaining two classes that were temporarily closed, though some of the parents have sent their children to be tested privately.

Loh said the past one week of ambiguity have resulted in frayed nerves and created tension among the parents on the next step for the school -- to close temporarily until the source of the infection is confirmed, or to remain open.

“Every parent is very frustrated with the situation with some asking why they cannot send their child back to school if their child has tested negative?

“On the other hand, there are parents pressuring the headmistress to close the school in case of more undetected cases.

“These confusions could have been avoided if there were clear guidelines on what the school management should do in the event of their students infected with the virus,” Loh said.

He called on the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry to break their silence and provide clear instructions to the school authorities and the parents on what they should do next.

“Right now she is faced with a lot of pressure from parents with different demands.

“At the same time we are worried for the safety of our children,” Loh said.

Malay Mail has contacted the Selangor Health Department for clarification about the school but has yet to receive a response.

The Health Ministry recorded 1,317 new Covid-19 cases, 10 new clusters and four more deaths yesterday.

Selangor alone had 303 cases and one workplace cluster.

Malaysia is still in the grip of the third Covid-19 wave that started last year after the Sabah state election in September.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob who is in charge of Covid-19 cluster-related matters also said yesterday that the country is at risk of a fourth wave at the current rate, even as the government continues its national vaccination programme, now in phase two prioritising frontliners, the elderly and those with comorbidities.

To Loh, this is an indication that teachers should be put on the immediate vaccination list to reduce their pressure while teaching if schools are to stay open.Last month, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah disclosed that 41 Covid-19 clusters were linked to the gradual reopening of schools nationwide.

These included 15 in institutions of higher education, 11 in secondary schools, 10 from primary and preschools, and five more from Islamic schools.

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