SINGAPORE - Suspected Zika cases will no longer need to be isolated while waiting for their test results from Tuesday (Sept 6), authorities said.
"As the cases of Zika in Singapore have been mild so far, confirmed cases will no longer need to be hospitalised unless medically indicated," the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement on Monday.
The Ministry will extend subsidies for the Zika test to all Singaporeans with symptoms of the disease, whether or not they are in an existing cluster.
More than a week after the first locally transmitted case of Zika was identified, most of the confirmed cases have been found in the Aljunied Crescent, Sims Drive, Kallang Way and Paya Lebar Way area, but new cases have emerged all over the island.
Besides the Aljunied area, two clusters have been identified in Bedok North Avenue 3 and Joo Seng Road.
As of noon on Monday, there are 258 confirmed cases of locally transmitted Zika here. Thus far, 16 people who have contracted Zika have no known links to other cases or clusters, MOH said.
"Over time, we expect Zika cases to emerge in more areas given the presence of the Aedes mosquitoes here," MOH and NEA said.
The agencies will thus adjust their strategies to manage the virus in the same way they deal with dengue.
Zika patients will be able to wait for their test results at home after their urine or blood samples have been taken at the clinics or hospitals.
Patients have had to be isolated for 12 hours or more to wait for test results.
They will be given advice on protecting themselves from mosquito bites.
Patients who test positive for Zika will be hospitalised only if judged clinically necessary by their doctor, similar to dengue patients.
The subsidies for Zika tests will be borne by MOH.
Subsidised patients at the public healthcare institutions will pay a subsidised rate of $60 if they have Zika symptoms. Symptoms include joint pain, muscle pain, red eyes and headache.
Patients who need the test but cannot afford it can apply for assistance, such as from Medifund.
For private patients in the public healthcare institutions, and patients at private clinics and private hospitals, they will pay the full cost of $150 for the Zika test.
For pregnant women with Zika symptoms or whose partner has Zika, the tests at public and private hospitals and clinics are free.
If they present no symptoms, but wish to be tested, subsidised patients who are pregnant can be tested at the subsidised rate of $60 at public healthcare institutions.
Patients will have to pay other charges such as the doctor's consultation fee.