Coronavirus: Singapore

Regular testing for staff in higher-risk settings

Workers in dine-in F&B eateries and gyms included; Govt to pay test costs for 3 months

The expanded Covid-19 testing regime will cover workers in establishments such as gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked. All workers will have to undergo testing, regardless of their vaccination status.
The expanded Covid-19 testing regime will cover workers in establishments such as gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked. All workers will have to undergo testing, regardless of their vaccination status.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Staff who work in higher-risk settings with unmasked customers will have to undergo regular Covid-19 testing, with the Government covering the cost of these tests for the next three months.

These include workers at dine-in food and beverage (F&B) establishments, saunas, gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked.

Mandatory fast and easy testing (FET) will start from next month for those working at dine-in F&B establishments, as dining in with a maximum group size of five will be allowed to resume from June 21.

Personal care and appearance services which require masks to be removed, such as facials and saunas, will be allowed to resume from June 14.

This expanded testing regime was announced yesterday by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, alongside the relaxation of measures in two stages.

FET uses tests such as antigen rapid tests, which can produce results in about 30 minutes and can be done on-site.

All workers will have to undergo testing, regardless of their vaccination status.

The Ministry of Health said FET capacity will be ramped up aggressively in the coming months, with mandatory testing progressively rolled out to larger establishments first and extended to smaller businesses later on.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, said yesterday that the Government is working out the details of this new testing regime.

These include the frequency of testing, where it is conducted and whether it can be self-administered. More information will be announced later by the relevant agencies, the minister said.

The regime is part of measures which Singapore is taking to minimise virus transmission and the risk of large clusters breaking out as it reopens in a cautious and controlled manner, he said.

The Government will cover the cost of testing over the next three months for a start, said Mr Wong.

"We are doing that during this period because it is important to get everyone tested regularly and put this in place.

"Beyond that, employers will have to start thinking about in-corporating these processes as part of their BCPs (business continuity planning)."

Mr Wong stressed that Singapore must continue to ensure compliance with safe distancing rules and safe management measures, especially in higher-risk settings such as F&B outlets, where people do not have their masks on.

Measures which F&B operators have to take in line with safe distancing rules include ensuring that their restaurants have good ventilation and groups of diners are seated at least 1m apart.

Testing is one of three strategies, alongside contact tracing and vaccination, through which Singapore is battling Covid-19 in the face of new and more contagious variants.

Rostered routine testing is already being conducted in a number of higher-risk settings in Singapore, including migrant worker dormitories, construction sites, shipyards, air and sea ports, hospitals and nursing homes.

Individuals, whether vaccinated or not, are tested once every seven days or once every 14 days, depending on their risk level.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2021, with the headline 'Regular testing for staff in higher-risk settings'. Subscribe