askST: Why are people told to return home while waiting for their Covid-19 test results?

Some readers had raised concerns that the practice increases the risk of such people infecting others with the coronavirus while on their way home. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - People who are waiting for the results of their Covid-19 swab tests are advised to go home, as this poses the lowest risk of exposure to other people, the Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said on Tuesday (March 24).

He was speaking to The Straits Times after it approached the Ministry of Health (MOH) for comment as some readers had raised concerns that the practice increases the risk of such people infecting others on their way home.

Associate Professor Mak said that it takes several hours for results from the swab test to be generated. Those who have been tested are therefore advised to go home, and isolate themselves while waiting for the results.

This means avoiding crowded areas or unnecessary trips from home, he said.

He added: "We have considered whether or not we should allow people who were swab-tested to wait around at any facility, for example, a clinic, or in the context of the airport, stay around until those results come out.

"But we are mindful of the fact that if there are many people being swab-tested, then that proves to be a risk in itself, because you might have people who are congregating, gathering or waiting for their test results."

With that in mind, it is about weighing risks - and the authorities feel it is "more prudent" to let those who are tested go home and wait for their results, said Prof Mak.

Those who test positive will be taken from their homes to the hospital via a dedicated ambulance service.

Some readers had also asked why those returning from Britain and the United States were put on stay-home-notice (SHN) rather than being quarantined. There were concerns that the SHN would allow returnees to infect their family members.

MOH said that with effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday (March 25), this group of returnees would have to serve out their SHN at hotels in Singapore.

This is to prevent the potential spread of infection to their family members, said the ministry.

Transport will be arranged to take the returnees directly from the airport to the hotels, and each person will have his own room and toilet. They will be provided with all meals, so that they may avoid physical contact with other individuals.

All this will be provided free of charge.

Returnees from Britain and the US who are currently serving out their SHN in their homes may also apply to stay in these dedicated facilities, and can call the SHN Helpline on 6812-5555 for more information.

MOH said: "These SHN requirements will be strictly enforced so as to reduce the risk of community transmission from imported cases."

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