All staff, residents at homes for the elderly to be tested for Covid-19

Staff from the National University Health System supervising a mass staff swabbing exercise to test for Covid-19 at All Saints Home (Jurong East). PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HEALTH SYSTEM
All nursing home staff have tested negative for the virus, with the exception of one employee at Ren Ci in Ang Mo Kio. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - All 30,000 staff and residents in Singapore's residential care homes for the elderly will be tested for the coronavirus, starting with those who have acute respiratory symptoms, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday (May 8).

As a precaution, staff in these homes - which include welfare and nursing homes - will stay in onsite facilities or move to hotels until the circuit breaker is lifted, if their job involves interacting with residents.

Although Singapore has not seen widespread Covid-19 outbreaks in these facilities, it is undertaking these measures as overseas experience has shown such outbreaks can be catastrophic, said the Health Ministry (MOH) in a separate statement.

Mr Gan noted that people aged 60 and above are most vulnerable to the virus, with 90 per cent of Covid-19 deaths here occurring among this group. Nearly one in six seniors developed severe symptoms and required intensive care, he added at a virtual press conference held by the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic.

This is why extra efforts are being made to protect seniors, especially those in nursing homes.

Testing for all 9,000 nursing home staff and 16,000 residents across the 80 nursing homes started last Wednesday (April 29).

All nursing home staff have tested negative for the virus, with the exception of one employee at Ren Ci in Ang Mo Kio.

More than 30 residents from the home - including those who had contact with the worker as well as those who have acute respiratory symptoms - have been tested for the virus. None of them tested positive, Mr Gan said.

He added that the Government will progressively test all 16,000 nursing home residents and expects this to be done by early June. More cases are likely to be identified with this extensive testing process, he said.

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When there is a positive case, the Ministry of Health and Agency for Integrated Care will work with the nursing home to thoroughly disinfect affected areas and carry out contact tracing and quarantine.

Speaking at the same press conference, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said that around 700 staff from nursing homes funded by his ministry will live on site, while another 400 will move into hotels.

They started moving on Monday (May 4) and will be done by May 11.

Mr Lee added that the Silver Generation Office has been calling vulnerable seniors living at home to ensure that they know about the latest developments, as well as to check on their needs and well-being.

"It's important that our seniors are updated and aware of what's going on," he said.

"If you know any seniors in your neighbourhood who could use a friendly check-in, do reach out to them or let us know."

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