Compulsory Covid-19 antigen rapid test to be introduced at Woodlands, Tuas checkpoints from Friday: MTI

Antigen rapid tests will be progressively rolled out at the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints for cargo drivers and those accompanying them.
Antigen rapid tests will be progressively rolled out at the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints for cargo drivers and those accompanying them.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - A compulsory Covid-19 antigen rapid test (ART) will be rolled out for cargo drivers entering Singapore at land checkpoints from Friday (Jan 22), said the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

In a statement on Thursday, the ministry said antigen rapid tests will be progressively rolled out from 9am on Friday at the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints for cargo drivers and those accompanying them.

Those who test negative can proceed to enter Singapore.

Drivers will be selected at random to be tested in the initial stage, said an MTI spokesman 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 MTI spokesman.

As ARTs are less accurate, she said the individual will be asked to return home and 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 only enter Singapore 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, said the ministry.

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 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.

Antigen rapid testing has been used as a pre-event safety measure for larger-scale activities in Singapore. It can return results in about 30 minutes, and complements the more sensitive, but slower polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The Ministry of Health had announced last week that from Sunday (Jan 24), 11.59pm, all travellers, including citizens and permanent residents, will have to take a PCR test when they arrive in Singapore.

Suppliers said the new requirements 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 (Supply Chain Business) for FairPrice Group, said cargo drivers or other workers do not mingle with FairPrice’s staff when bringing 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. 

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 also stressed that their supplies come from many sources, not just Malaysia, including by sea and air. 

“This Chinese New Year, no one should worry about not having enough of what they need to buy at our outlets,” he said, adding that prices will be monitored to ensure they continue to be affordable. 

Mr Ngien was also asked whether drivers should be vaccinated. He said vaccination would be useful, with many workers at the frontlines such as at sea and air ports already receiving their jabs. "But I would leave this to the Malaysian and Singapore governments to work out... how to execute this."

Deputy chief executive of Sunlight Paper Products Marc Chua said the new requirement is unlikely to have a large impact on his company’s supplies. 

His firm brings in paper products such as toilet rolls and hand towels in two to four trailers per week. 

“We always ensure buffer stock of two weeks, even more during the Chinese New Year period in anticipation of higher demand,” he said, adding that they have diverse sources, such as from other parts of South-east Asia and China. 

Head of business development for Kee Song Food Corporation James Sim said his company has put additional manpower on standby since the pandemic started. Should any driver contract Covid-19, a swap can be done quickly within the same day. 

His firm imports poultry from a town in Johor for processing at an abattoir in Singapore. The live chicken industry here brings in around 55 to 60 trucks per day, he estimated. 

“I foresee there might be some delay, but it’s unlikely costs will be passed to consumers as we see it as a temporary measure.”