Forum: Clarify guidelines on timing of pre-departure Covid-19 swabs

With international travel opening up, some destinations are demanding pre-departure Covid-19 swabs from the country of origin (Travellers to Taiwan must test negative for Covid-19, Dec 1).

Most require the tests to be done within three days of departure, with China requiring tests within two days of departure.

However, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and different embassies have issued conflicting instructions.

For instance, if a flight departs late on Friday evening and patients come for a swab on Wednesday morning, it qualifies as within a two-day period but exceeds 48 hours.

Travellers have been told by the Chinese embassy that this is allowed, but doctors have been told explicitly by MOH that since it exceeds 48 hours between swab and departure, it doesn't pass muster.

An official, consulted on the MOH hotline for Covid-19-related matters, gave the guideline that doctors could proceed to perform the pre-departure swab as demanded by patients based on the criteria given to them by their embassies.

Doctors can easily cede responsibility for all consequences as long as patients are made aware of them and have undersigned for them, but the uncertainty still leaves some disquiet. Telling doctors to seek oral confirmation from each embassy in our private capacity is definitely not the way forward. Often, we don't even get a response.

To prevent or settle disputes, a clear directive in black and white is necessary.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

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