SINGAPORE - More Covid-19 tests will be done in Singapore as the country enters phase two of its reopening from Friday (June 19), when more activities here can resume.
Close contacts of confirmed cases will be tested, as will all individuals aged 45 and above who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection when they first visit a doctor, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday.
Previously, close contacts of confirmed cases were only quarantined. But they will now also be tested before they start their quarantine.
"If anyone tests positive, we start contract tracing again based on this person's activity map," MOH said, adding that this will help to broaden the list of suspected cases, and allow infected cases to be isolated early.
And with more people returning to work, all those 45 years old and above who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection will be tested from later next week, MOH said, as the risks of severe Covid-19 infection increases from this age.
"This will progressively be extended to more groups subsequently," MOH said in a statement.
The ministry said it aims to test all individuals who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection when they first visit a doctor. Earlier this month, this started with groups such as seniors aged 65 years and above, healthcare workers, and staff and older students in education institutions.
Those with respiratory symptoms are also encouraged to see a doctor immediately so they can be tested if necessary.
The Covid-19 tests ordered by the doctors at Singapore's polyclinics and public health preparedness clinics are fully subsidised, the ministry said.
The Government will also actively screen more groups in the community, with the Health Ministry monitoring the situation and assessing the risks as such active surveillance testing is progressively expanded.
In May, for example, all staff and residents of residential homes under MOH and the Ministry of Social and Family Development, as well as all pre-school and early intervention staff, were tested before the resumption of full pre-school services.
Regular testing has also begun for workers returning to work in the construction, marine and process sectors, and frontline workers supporting Covid-19 operations, MOH said.
More regional screening centres will also be set up to make testing more convenient.
The use of technology that can facilitate efficient contact tracing will also be important in ensuring the economy can reopen safely, MOH said, and urged more users to download and use the TraceTogether app which helps with this.
TraceTogether tokens will be provided to those who do not have smartphones or the requisite smartphones for the app to work properly from end June, starting with the elderly and then progressively to the rest of the population.
Details will be provided at a later date.
Currently, all businesses and services that are in operation are required to use SafeEntry, which helps to establish specific times of entry and exit in enclosed venues for all visitors, employees, associates and vendors.
SafeEntry data helps to fill a patient's activity map quickly, so that activity mappers do not start on a blank slate.
The records also help to jog the patient's memory, which again helps to cut the time needed to do activity mapping, MOH said.
In parallel, TraceTogether's proximity data helps the authorities to quickly identify people who have been in close contact with the patient.
These digital tools work in tandem to facilitate more accurate and faster contact tracing.
People should also continue to practice good personal hygiene and adhere to safe distancing measures to reduce the risk of transmissions, advised MOH.
Said the ministry: "With our collective efforts, we can look forward to a safe re-opening and resumption of activities."