Workplaces in S'pore not reinstating mandatory regular testing yet despite Covid-19 wave

Employers said they are keeping a close eye on the situation and urging their staff to remain vigilant. ST PHOTO: EUGENE GOH

SINGAPORE - Companies here are not resuming mandatory regular Covid-19 testing yet, despite a new wave of coronavirus cases.

Nevertheless, employers The Straits Times spoke to, including the Public Service Division (PSD) and Singapore's three healthcare clusters, said they are keeping a close eye on the situation and urging their staff to remain vigilant.

The week on week infection ratio of cases here has remained above one since June 14, meaning that the number of new weekly Covid-19 cases has been increasing.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on June 28 that the next wave of Covid-19 infections has arrived sooner than previously expected.

A PSD spokesman, highlighting that a multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 recently announced that there would be no changes to safe management measures in spite of the new wave, told ST that it will maintain existing measures, including regular cleaning of common spaces and encouraging telecommuting.

"The safety and health of the public and all public officers remain our utmost priority. We remain vigilant in ensuring that we resume work at the workplace in a safe manner," he said.

On March 24, the Ministry of Health said rostered routine testing would cease across all sectors from March 29, with high vaccination and booster rates and strict compliance to safe management measures offering sufficient protection, given that the peak of the Covid-19 wave at the time had passed.

Changi Airport Group said it is monitoring the current situation and is ready to reinstate any measures where necessary.

Singapore's three national healthcare clusters said they are not reinstating mandatory testing before returning to the workplace for healthcare workers.

Professor Fong Kok Yong, deputy group chief executive officer for medical and clinical services at SingHealth, said staff are regularly reminded to test themselves for Covid-19 if they are feeling unwell.

Those working in high-risk areas who have just recovered from the coronavirus are required to take a polymerase chain reaction test before returning to work, added Prof Fong who is also co-chair of his cluster's disease outbreak task force.

He noted that among other precautions, SingHealth's institutions have stringent infection control measures in place.

Professor Lim Tock Han, National Healthcare Group's group chairman, medical board, said in the event of a surge in patients, his cluster is ready to optimise and adjust bed capacity, resources, protocols and manpower.

Associate Professor Thomas Loh, group chairman, medical board, at the National University Health System, said his group is closely monitoring developments and will adjust its response accordingly.

One of the measures currently in place is being flexible with manpower deployment, so as to reduce staff burnout while meeting operational and safety requirements.

Companies in the private sector are also not reinstating rostered routine testing.

DBS Bank said it will continue to adhere to the measures set by the Ministry of Manpower, and maintain hygiene and cleanliness at its offices.

Emphasising that the health and safety of customers and staff is a top priority, Mr Patrick Chew, OCBC Bank's head of operational risk management, said it is closely keeping tabs on the situation and ready to adapt its measures if necessary.

Prudential Singapore said there had not been a significant increase in the number of employees who caught Covid-19 in the past two months, adding that those who wish to work from office are encouraged to test themselves regularly.

Ms Rivero Delgado, Marriott International's area vice-president for Singapore, Malaysia and Maldives, said her company is taking measures such as providing free hand sanitiser to guests and associates.

Calling on businesses here to remain vigilant and employees to exercise personal responsibility, a spokesman for the Singapore Business Federation said vaccination is a key part of the defence against Covid-19, and businesses should grant staff paid time-off to get booster shots.

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme), said companies should be prepared for short-term disruptions caused by workers getting infected.

He noted that Singapore has experienced several Covid-19 surges in the past and companies have had practice implementing safe management measures.

"Companies should hold steadfast, maintain good safe management practices and not relax their measures, while at the same time remaining vigilant for any notices... from Asme or the (authorities)," he added.

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