Covid-19 quarantine cut to 10 days due to Delta variant's shorter incubation

The task force said the Delta variant has an incubation period of four days or less on average, compared with the average six to eight days for the original strain.
The task force said the Delta variant has an incubation period of four days or less on average, compared with the average six to eight days for the original strain.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The quarantine period for those at risk of exposure to Covid-19 will be shortened from 14 days to 10 days, the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 in Singapore announced on Friday (Sept 10).

This is to account for the Delta variant's shorter incubation period. It will take effect from next week.

The task force said the Delta variant has an incubation period of four days or less on average, compared with the average six to eight days for the original strain.

This means that with the Delta variant, it will take about four days after exposure for the virus to be detectable in an individual.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement that the quarantine period will be reduced to 10 days from the date of last exposure, provided the person under quarantine tests negative for Covid-19 at the end of quarantine.

The person will need to continue to conduct daily antigen rapid tests from after the quarantine period to Day 14, to mitigate any remaining risk of infection.

Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said the National Centre for Infectious Diseases has found that those infected with the Delta variant may have high viral loads at an early phase of their infection.

Associate Professor Mak added: “This is particularly for unvaccinated but infected cases. And they have more prolonged shedding of the virus, compared to other variants. 

“This contributed to the overall increased transmissibility seen with this variant.”

MOH said the changes to the quarantine period will not apply to dormitory residents for now due to the larger risk of transmission, given their cohorted living arrangements.

Some sectors may also have additional requirements due to their unique needs.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the stay-home notice period for travellers coming in to Singapore will also remain at 14 days.

MOH said as the number of infection cases build up, contact tracing resources will be prioritised to focus on preventing large clusters at high-risk and vulnerable settings.

TraceTogether data will be used to identify close contacts of Covid-19 cases, who will be issued health risk warnings or health risk alerts.

These individuals should get tested to minimise the risk of disease spread, MOH said.

Prof Mak noted: "We're not giving up on contact tracing. (It) still continues.

"But we've come to realise that in the contact tracing processes... we do need to improve our processes to ensure that we can identify those who are truly at risk of getting infected.

“We want to be a lot more targeted, efficient and able to then identify the at-risk people and bring them to a testing or isolation protocol as quickly as possible, without wasting additional resources looking at other people.”

MOH said household members of confirmed Covid-19 cases will be required to quarantine themselves.

More information on the self-quarantine arrangement and the support for these people will be released later.

Said MOH: "Overall, the shifts in our approach, including the use of health risk warnings, health risk alerts and self-quarantine, allow us to mitigate the risk of further transmission in a more sustainable manner.

"It requires more personal responsibility, and each of us to do our part."

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