Coronavirus: Clinics see mixed numbers on 1st day of expanded test criteria

Figures will rise as Covid-19 test becomes norm for patients with respiratory infection: Doctors

Different clinics have reported different experiences with the total number of patients who needed to be swabbed yesterday, the first day the expanded testing criteria for Covid-19 were applied.

As of yesterday, all patients with acute respiratory infection (ARI) who are aged 13 or above will be tested for Covid-19, as part of Singapore's strategy against the virus outbreak.

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

A sore throat, cough or runny nose could well indicate infection.

A spokesman for Parkway Shenton said that as of 5.30pm yesterday, the medical chain had seen a total of 71 patients with ARIs across its 42 Public Health Preparedness Clinics.

Of these patients, 56 had to be swabbed for the virus, twice the number of those tested under similar circumstances over the past few weeks.

However, not all clinics saw such a jump in patients who needed testing.

EH Medical Clinic's founder, Dr Seow En Hao, said that only four of his 23 patients today required swabbing - a lower number than usual, but not unexpected as there had already been lower patient numbers following the recent circuit breaker measures.

Crossroads Family Clinic saw only three patients who needed to be swabbed.

Dr Quah Soon Wee, a family physician at the clinic, said that similarly low numbers were seen post-circuit breaker.

"People might have mild symptoms and not want to be swabbed and put on long medical leave," he said.


Dr Aziz Noordin, family physician at the Tampines Family Medicine Clinic, said that just one patient had an ARI and needed to be swabbed yesterday.

"People are either not coming forward, or self medicating, or it could truly be that not many have ARI," he said, adding that a clearer picture of actual patient rates would emerge after a week.

Swabbing rates remained the same at Northeast Medical Group's nine clinics.

Its medical director, Dr Tan Teck Jack, said that 46 patients with ARI turned up at the chain's clinics, 19 of whom needed to be swabbed.

Dr Tan said that the low numbers could be due to some people being afraid of the potential consequences of getting swabbed.

He said: "I think responsible citizens are aware of the dangers to their friends, colleagues and families and are coming forward to get screened.

"At the same time, a minority are fearful of stigma, or the swab procedure, or worried about getting medical certificates which make them unfit for work."

He added: "Overall, I feel the numbers will increase as the testing for Covid-19 becomes part of normal living."

Dr Quah, echoing the same sentiment, said: "I guess people will slowly adjust to this new norm of seeing a doctor for ARI and expecting to be swabbed."

He added that the number of patients with ARI might fall slightly, but the number of those being tested would increase regardless, as a higher percentage of such patients would need to be swabbed.

Dr Seow said: "With the country opening up, cases will definitely go up given that there is more interpersonal interaction."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2020, with the headline 'Clinics see mixed numbers on 1st day of expanded test criteria'. Subscribe