Coronavirus pandemic

600 Covid-19 tests a day done on those with respiratory illness

A  daily average of 3,600 ARI patients were seen at polyclinics and Public Health Preparedness Clinics across the island.
A daily average of 3,600 ARI patients were seen at polyclinics and Public Health Preparedness Clinics across the island.PHOTO: ST FILE

Out of these swabs taken from June 8-28, only 2 were positive

About 600 swabs a day taken from patients with acute respiratory illness (ARI) who visited polyclinics and Public Health Preparedness Clinics under the Swab and Send Home programme were tested for Covid-19 from June 8 to 28.

Of these, only the swabs of two patients tested positive for the coronavirus, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday.

Those tested include school staff and students who are at least 13 years old, seniors aged 65 years and above and since June 24, anyone who is at least 45 years old.

MOH added that during this same period, a daily average of 3,600 ARI patients were seen at polyclinics and Public Health Preparedness Clinics across the island.

ARIs affect the sinus, nose, throat or lungs, and may or may not be accompanied by a fever.

This group of infections includes respiratory conditions such as acute upper respiratory tract infection, influenza, pneumonia and acute bronchitis.

However, some of the conditions under this group, such as a sore throat, cough or runny nose, may be due to other underlying non-ARI causes, including acid reflux, allergies or asthma.

Therefore, it is up to the individual doctor to decide based on his clinical judgment whether a patient actually has an ARI or not.

The ministry has been steadily expanding the criteria for patients with such infections to get tested for Covid-19, as part of its efforts to tackle the spread of the illness here.

From June 2, all school staff and students aged 13 and above who had ARI were swabbed for the coronavirus.

From June 24, this was expanded to include anyone aged 45 and older.

As of July 1, anyone aged 13 and above with an ARI will be swabbed after seeing a doctor.

 
 
 
 

Doctors will assess ARI patients who are younger to see if a test is required, as they may have different clinical considerations from older patients.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday that expanding the testing criteria allows the authorities to detect infected individuals early and to quickly contain further spread by putting them under quarantine or sending them for treatment.

He added: "With this expansion of testing... we do expect the number (of cases) detected to rise, simply because we are now testing more rigorously, even if there's no change in the underlying community transmission.

"But this will help us set a baseline for us to monitor the landscape (and) the situation better."

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, MOH's director of medical services who was also at the press conference, said the Government is working to not just expand its testing regime, but also to speed up its response to cases picked up by the regime.

"After we get a positive test, bringing these people quickly out of circulation, disrupting chains of transmission... this is what we're working on," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2020, with the headline '600 Covid-19 tests a day done on those with respiratory illness'. Print Edition | Subscribe