MOH apologises for delays, lapses in Covid-19 quarantine process

The ministry said most of the backlog was cleared over the weekend, and the situation should improve.
The ministry said most of the backlog was cleared over the weekend, and the situation should improve.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) has apologised for delays in taking people under quarantine orders to government quarantine facilities.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, MOH on Monday (Aug 2) said the number of people under quarantine has "increased many fold" with the emergence of Covid-19 clusters linked to KTV lounges and the Jurong Fishery Port, as well as other smaller clusters.

The surge led to the delays in taking people to the facilities, as well as "communications gaps" for some under quarantine, said MOH.

"We apologise to these individuals and their families for delays and lapses.

"Our operations staff have been working very hard. The Ministry of Health has since ramped up our quarantine operations to handle the increased load."

The ministry did not elaborate or give details on the ramp-up in operations.

It added that most of the backlog has been cleared over the weekend, and the situation should improve.

Tighter restrictions under phase two (heightened alert), which have been in place since July 22, have resulted in a fall in the number of contacts per infected person, the ministry said.

More people are becoming fully vaccinated, which means more can serve their quarantine at home if their homes are suitable. This will also reduce the need for people to be taken to quarantine facilities, MOH added.

Those allowed to be quarantined at home can also opt to be taken to a facility if they wish.

There are about 10,000 people quarantined at home as at Aug 1.

MOH's statement comes after complaints from ST readers and netizens about lengthy wait times and unclear communication.

One ST reader said her mother was issued a quarantine order on July 20 and faced multiple delays in the process of being taken to a facility. Her mother was later told she could be quarantined at home.

The reader also said her mother's quarantine order was supposed to have expired on July 31, but she continued to stay home as she had not been given the results of her swab test.

MOH and Certis, which issued the quarantine order, were unresponsive to calls, the reader said.

Separately, in a written reply to a parliamentary question filed by Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC) of the Workers' Party, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the average time to issue a quarantine order from the point of notification of a confirmed case was two days, as at July.

The longest time interval was 14 days - this happened for a small number of individuals where it was particularly difficult to trace the contacts of the infected person, Mr Ong said.

The average time was shorter at 1.5 days in January this year, owing to the lower number of daily cases then.