More than 1.2 million ART kits set aside for public officers for 8-week rostered routine testing

Companies on the rostered routine testing programme will be given eight ART kits for each employee. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Since the coronavirus pandemic began last year, intellectual property law firm That.Legal LLC has required that all its staff who can work from home do so.

However, one of its employees, who lives in a three-room Housing Board flat, comes to work as she does not have space to work from home.

So, the firm signed up for the eight-week rostered routine testing (RRT) regime that requires employees who go to work to self-test for Covid-19 over that period using antigen rapid test (ART) kits.

The RRT was announced on Sept 6, where all employees who are registered should test themselves weekly over a two-month period.

Companies on the programme will be given eight ART kits for each employee.

Mr Mark Teng, the law firm's executive director, said they registered for it to ensure their staff's safety.

Companies which are not already subject to mandatory RRT and which have employees who work onsite are eligible for RRT.

Singapore's largest employer, the public service, is taking the lead with this initiative, and will be distributing eight ART kits to each of its 153,000 public officers.

This amounts to more than 1.2 million kits for officers working across 16 ministries and more than 50 statutory boards.

The Public Service Division told The Straits Times: "Regular self-testing has been introduced across the public service as community infections have been increasing at a rapid pace."

It added that regular testing will help ministries and agencies quickly detect infections, isolate the infected and keep workplaces safe.

Recruitment company Robert Walters Singapore noted how it was beneficial for companies to participate in this initiative as it can help them minimise the occurrence of workplace clusters.

It said companies expecting most of their staff to return to the office should do so.

During a multi-ministry task force press conference last month, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong had urged employees to conduct self-testing regularly.

Mr Gan, who co-chairs the task force, had said: "We would like to urge everyone to make testing a way of life and self-test before visiting crowded places."

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang of the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health said this testing regime could be in line with the approach the Republic is taking to fight Covid-19.

The infectious diseases expert said: "(This) is to move towards an endemic state of Covid-19 while attempting to minimise deaths and the strain to our healthcare capacity."

Several visitor attractions, such as Snow City Singapore, have voluntarily administered ART tests on their staff.

Dr Kevin Cheong, chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions, said Science Centre Singapore, NERF Action Xperience, Kiztopia and other attractions are planning to do so as soon as they can confirm their supply of ART kits, some of which will be obtained from the Government.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), the parent company of SPH Media Limited which publishes ST, has also joined the initiative. Since last month, it has been distributing the kits to staff who have to work on-site.

This includes journalists and those in security services, production and radio as well as cleaners and canteen operators.

Healthcare supplements company HST Medical has also arranged for its warehouse and logistics staff to collect the kits on-site. They will start the eight-week RRT from Oct 10.

To ensure compliance, their staff will need to write their names and date of test on the test kit using a permanent marker.

Employees who test positive via an ART test but are physically well are advised to self-isolate at home for 72 hours, then do another ART test.

If the result is negative, they are allowed to return to work.

If they test positive, they should continue to self-isolate and take another ART every 24 hours until they receive a negative result.

To sign up for a kit, companies can apply at this website.

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