A compulsory Covid-19 antigen rapid test (ART) will be progressively rolled out for cargo drivers entering Singapore at land checkpoints from 9am today, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).
In the initial stage, drivers arriving at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints will be selected at random to be tested, an MTI spokesman said yesterday in response to queries. "We intend for all cargo drivers and accompanying personnel to undergo the testing in the coming weeks."
This new requirement is in line with Singapore's strengthened border controls, which require all travellers to take Covid-19 tests upon arrival to manage the growing risk of imported cases.
Anyone who tests positive will not be allowed to enter Singapore, said the spokesman.
As ARTs are less accurate, the spokesman said the individual will be asked to return home and be advised to take a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
They can present their test certificate and re-enter Singapore if the PCR test is negative. If the result is positive, they can enter Singapore only after recovering completely from Covid-19 - at least 21 days after the date of diagnosis, she added.
The negative PCR result must be taken within 72 hours before re-entry into Singapore.
As cargo drivers and accompanying personnel could interact with the local community in Singapore, introducing the on-arrival ART will allow potential Covid-19 cases to be identified and further mitigate the risk, MTI said in a statement yesterday.
The ministry also said it recognised the importance of ensuring the smooth passage of goods between the two countries, as well as the important role that cargo drivers and other personnel play.
"We will ensure smooth operations at the checkpoints to minimise disruptions to deliveries and supply chains. Businesses expecting deliveries are encouraged to maintain close communication with their logistic providers and cater for possible delays," it added.
ARTs have been used as a safety measure for larger-scale activities in Singapore. It can return results in about 30 minutes, and complements the more sensitive, but slower PCR tests.
Last week, the Ministry of Health said that from 11.59pm on Sunday, all travellers, including Singapore citizens and permanent residents, will have to take a PCR test when they arrive here.
Suppliers said the new testing requirements for cargo drivers are unlikely to drive up prices for consumers or lead to shortages as plans are already in place to deal with potential disruptions.
Mr Ngien Hoon Ping, chief executive for supply chain business at FairPrice Group, said cargo drivers do not mingle with FairPrice staff when delivering supplies to the group's warehouses.
"We welcome this news because it lends an additional assurance to our staff that drivers and passengers coming through have been tested and are safe," he said.
Asked whether drivers should be vaccinated, he said it would be useful, as many workers on the front lines such as at sea and air ports are already receiving their jabs. "But I would leave this to the Malaysian and Singapore governments to work out... how to execute this."
FairPrice has staff on standby and is prepared to keep its warehouses open for longer to ensure operations can continue if there are delays, Mr Ngien said.
He stressed that its supplies come from many sources, not just Malaysia, including by sea and air.
Mr James Sim, head of business development at Kee Song Food Corporation, said his company, which imports poultry from Johor, has additional manpower on standby. Should any driver contract Covid-19, a swop can be done within the same day.
Mr Marc Chua, deputy chief executive of Sunlight Paper Products, said the new requirement is unlikely to have a large impact on his company's supplies of products such as toilet rolls and hand towels.
"We always ensure buffer stock of two weeks, even more during the Chinese New Year period, in anticipation of higher demand."