SINGAPORE - Each household in Singapore will soon receive six antigen rapid test (ART) self-test kits in the mail.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will mail them via SingPost from Saturday (Aug 28) to Sept 27 as people are urged to play a bigger role in managing the pandemic.
"As Singapore gradually transits to being a Covid-19 resilient nation, society will play an increasingly important role to manage the pandemic," said MOH in a statement.
"A major aspect is to exercise personal responsibility to self-test and monitor our own health status."
In a Facebook post, SingPost said the ART kits will be sent to the letterboxes of residential units.
Residents may get a notification when their ART kits have been delivered by downloading the SingPost app, registering with their mobile number and verifying their residential address.
From mid-September, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will also be distributing ART kits to all pupils and staff in ECDA-licensed pre-schools, MOE kindergartens, early intervention centres, primary schools and the primary or junior sections of special education schools.
This is on top of the nationwide distribution to each household.
Each student or staff member will get three kits.
MOH said the distribution exercises form part of a broader strategy to step up testing efforts in Singapore, with more details to be shared in the coming week by the multi-ministry task force combating Covid-19.
"As we become a very highly-vaccinated country, we will need to shift our emphasis to testing and surveillance, including self-testing, as an effective means to control the pandemic proactively."
The list of ART self-test kits and instructions on how to use them are available on this website.
Separately, MOE and ECDA explained in a joint release that the ART kits will allow pupils to do a quick test by themselves, or be assisted by their parents or guardians if necessary when there is possible exposure or suspicion of possible infection.
This includes pupils who are identified by their school as possible contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 case but were not placed under quarantine, are on approved absence as they were feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms but were not swabbed when visiting the doctor, or have unwell household members with flu-like symptoms.
Primary schools, MOE kindergartens and special education schools will be engaging parents to do a one-time familiarisation exercise some time in mid-September on the use of the ART kit.
The MOE and ECDA said this is to ensure that parents and children are familiar with the procedures for the ART kits at home, as these may be used more regularly in the coming months to facilitate the safe return of students to school.
"More details on the familiarisation exercise will be separately provided to parents by the respective schools later.
"Pre-schools will similarly be engaging parents on the use of the ART kits after the kits are progressively distributed from mid-September, and more details will be shared later," said both agencies.
In a Facebook post, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said self-testing with ART kits would enable quick detection of positive cases, and containment of potential transmission.
He also said schools will continue to adhere to strict safe management measures even as self-testing is introduced.
"These include temperature screening, disinfecting premises daily, cleaning high-touch surfaces and wiping down tables after use, staggered recess times and targeted containment through leave of absence and approved absence for those who might have been exposed to the coronavirus."
MOH also said that as at Thursday, 79 per cent of Singapore's population have completed the full vaccination regimen.
Singapore is on track to meet the ministry's target of 80 per cent by end-August, it added.
The number of new local cases has increased from an average of 47.1 cases in the week before to 76.0 cases in the past week. However, 98.9 per cent of the cases in the past week were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
"The multi-ministry task force (MTF) is watching the situation closely to ensure that the number of cases with severe symptoms remains under control and does not strain our healthcare system," said MOH.
With the number of vaccinations dropping sharply to less than a quarter of its peak, four out of the 37 mass vaccination centres will also be closed, MOH said.
The peak number of vaccination doses given a day was previously reported to be 80,000.
Instead, vaccination operations will be shifted to more public health preparedness clinics, as well as mobile and home vaccination teams for the seniors.
By end-September, Bukit Timah Community Club (CC), Kolam Ayer CC, Marsiling CC and Yuhua CC's vaccination centres will be closed. New bookings for Marsiling CC and Kolam Ayer CC will cease from Sept 2, while Bukit Timah CC and Yuhua CC will cease new bookings from Sept 9.
Covid-19 testing subsidies for mandatory rostered routine testing (RRT) with both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and fast and easy testing (FET) will also be extended until Dec 31, the ministry added.
The subsidy had previously been extended till Sept 30.
The subsidies will cover routine tests for workers who live in dormitories, work in the construction, marine and process, aviation, or maritime sectors, or work in settings with unmasked and vulnerable patrons, such as food and beverage establishments, personal care services, gyms and healthcare services.
Unvaccinated workers in these sectors are already subjected to mandatory regular testing, said MOH.
These mandated tests will continue to be subsidised by the Government.
So, the unvaccinated workers will have to pay for only the additional tests that are needed to meet the twice-a-week testing requirement under the vaccinate-or-regular-testing regime from Oct 1.
But beyond 2021, employers and businesses should be prepared to factor testing costs into their normal business operations, MOH pointed out.
"We will continue to review the testing subsidies to ensure they support our public health efforts, while sharing the costs equitably between taxpayers, employers and individuals."