S'pore rolls out measures to slow local Covid-19 spread

People urged to avoid non-essential social activities over next two weeks

Singapore residents have been asked to reduce non-essential social activities over the next two weeks as the Republic moves to stem its mounting rate of Covid-19 transmission.

In line with its goal of eventually opening up as vaccination rates increase, Singapore is not imposing more curbs, but has called upon people to help rein in the latest surge in infections.

It will also widen the testing regime to slow the spread of the virus, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

The number of new infections last week doubled to more than 1,200 - up from about 600 cases the week before.

"If the infections continue on this trajectory, we will see a doubling of cases every week. This means that we can expect to see more individuals suffer serious consequences," the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement.

"We need to take quick action now to dampen the increasing likelihood of an exponential increase in cases. This will also buy us time to get more people, in particular seniors, vaccinated as soon as possible, and also to roll out our booster programme to those aged 60 and above," it added.

When cases rose so sharply in other countries, more people died or required intensive care, said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.

"It is not just the unvaccinated seniors, because even for vaccinated persons, there will be a small proportion of them falling severely ill," he told reporters.

MOH yesterday urged all individuals, especially the elderly or those living with them, to limit social gatherings to one a day.

Under the new measures, workers in more sectors will have to undergo mandatory "fast and easy" rostered routine testing, with the frequency of tests increased from every 14 days to once a week.

This will be extended to retail mall workers, supermarket staff, last-mile delivery workers - including parcel and food delivery workers - as well as public and private transport workers.

Previously, only workers in higher-risk settings such as food and beverage outlets, personal care services and gym and fitness studios had to undergo such tests.

The Government will subsidise the cost of all tests under this enhanced surveillance regime until the end of this year, MOH said.

The Government will also distribute antigen rapid test (ART) kits to companies in sectors that are not subject to mandatory testing. Each company will get eight ART kits for each on-site employee to facilitate weekly testing of staff over two months.

"With these kits, we expect all companies to initiate weekly testing for their on-site staff," said MOH, adding that employers should put in place a process to ensure the tests are done properly.

The Government will also issue health risk warnings (HRWs) to individuals identified as close contacts of Covid-19 cases.

Those who receive an HRW are required by law to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result for this first test. They must also do an ART on the seventh day and a PCR test on the 14th day.

People whose SafeEntry records overlap with those of Covid-19 cases will get health risk alerts (HRAs). They are strongly encouraged to go for a PCR test as soon as possible.

HRW and HRA are not quarantine orders, MOH said, but individuals who get them should reduce their social interactions for 14 days.

MOH said the high vaccination coverage in Singapore has helped to keep the number of deaths and cases of severe illness among vaccinated individuals low.

But unvaccinated individuals remain susceptible - over the past 28 days, 6.7 per cent of infected unvaccinated patients fell severely ill or died, the ministry noted.

"I think if we all work together and continue to cooperate with one another, we will be able to manage our risk and reopen safely," said Mr Wong.

"With all these measures, we hope that we can help to slow down transmission without having to go back to (a state of) heightened alert or a circuit breaker," he added. "These are last-resort measures, and we will try our best to refrain from using them. But we should not rule them out entirely."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2021, with the headline 'S'pore rolls out measures to slow local Covid-19 spread'. Subscribe