Zika outbreak

Pregnant women cheer extension of free tests for virus

The ASTAR ZIka Test Kit. Mothers-to-be have welcomed a move announced by the authorities yesterday to extend free as well as subsidised tests for the Zika virus.
The ASTAR ZIka Test Kit. Mothers-to-be have welcomed a move announced by the authorities yesterday to extend free as well as subsidised tests for the Zika virus. PHOTO: ASTAR

This covers those who show symptoms or have male partner infected with virus

Mothers-to-be have welcomed a move announced by the authorities yesterday to extend free as well as subsidised tests for the Zika virus.

The tests are free at public healthcare institutions for subsidised pregnant women who show symptoms or have a male partner infected with the virus. Private patients are now eligible too.

Subsidised Zika testing at a rate of $60 for public patients will also be extended to all Singaporeans with symptoms of the virus, even if they do not live, work or study within existing clusters.

Pregnant women who do not have symptoms but wish to be tested can take the subsidised tests, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday. Previously, they had to pay the full $150 for a test.

A doctor's referral is needed to qualify for the free or subsidised tests.

So far, two pregnant women here have been confirmed to have Zika, which is linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby's head is abnormally small.

Ms Gracia Chiang, 31, editor at a content marketing agency, said the subsidies will ease some worries for those who want to get tested, but cannot afford to do so.

"It's a good measure to help defray some costs, but personally I don't think it's necessary to get tested if I don't have any symptoms," said Ms Chiang, who is expecting her second daughter in December.

Housewife Michelle Teo, 28, who is due to give birth to her son at the end of next month, said the subsidies are important for pregnant women in the early stages of pregnancy, who are "at a stage where they could still go for abortion".

But she said she is "so far along already" and will not get tested if she does not show symptoms.

Symptoms of Zika include joint and muscle pain, red eyes and headache.

Undergraduate Zenn Lin, 24, feels that the Government is doing its part to ensure Zika is well contained. "By providing subsidies, it creates an inclusive society ensuring access to healthcare regardless of social status," he said.

Patients who need the test but cannot afford it can apply for aid, such as from Medifund, said the MOH. While the subsidies for the Zika tests will be borne by the ministry, patients still have to pay charges such as the doctor's consultation fee.

Private patients who do not show symptoms will have to pay the full $150 for the Zika test.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Pregnant women cheer extension of free tests for virus'. Print Edition | Subscribe