Coronavirus pandemic

Number of tests fluctuates daily based on group to be tested

All laboratories in Singapore participate in a quality improvement programme on a weekly basis to help ensure that their processes are up to speed, and their tests are of an appropriate quality.
All laboratories in Singapore participate in a quality improvement programme on a weekly basis to help ensure that their processes are up to speed, and their tests are of an appropriate quality.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The number of Covid-19 tests carried out may fluctuate from day to day, depending on which group of people is scheduled to be tested, the Ministry of Health's (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak said yesterday.

He was explaining why MOH has said, on several occasions in its daily case updates, that fewer tests had been conducted, leading to a lower number of reported cases.

Associate Professor Mak said the reason fewer tests were done on certain days is not that Singapore has changed its tempo of testing, but that tests for Covid-19 are done across different settings.

For instance, in dormitories, tests are carried out to ensure blocks of foreign workers are infection-free so that they can return to work.

Sometimes, the number of workers tested may vary each day, depending on the group of people scheduled to be tested and the way in which their tests are scheduled, he said.

"And depending on which dormitory is allocated for that particular day, you may end up with more in a particular day, fewer on other days," he added.

Prof Mak also said the laboratory which had calibration issues with its apparatus last month, which led to 33 false positives, has since resolved them and is continuing to help test cases.

Additionally, all laboratories in Singapore participate in a quality improvement programme on a weekly basis.

This helps to ensure that their processes are up to speed, and their tests are of an appropriate quality.

The multi-ministry task force tackling the spread of the coronavirus had said previously that it aimed to ramp up its testing rate to 40,000 tests a day.

However, the task force's co-chair, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, noted yesterday that testing will continue to be done in a targeted manner, with high-risk groups being prioritised.

As of June 1, over 408,000 tests, or 71,700 tests per million population, had been carried out.

In a statement yesterday, MOH said: "Covid-19 testing is a key enabler of the Government's overall efforts to safely reopen after the circuit breaker... over the past months, our national capacity to conduct tests for Covid-19 has been ramped up steadily."

Timothy Goh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2020, with the headline 'Number of tests fluctuates daily based on group to be tested'. Print Edition | Subscribe