Isolation period will remain at 7 days as some Omicron cases still presenting later

Travellers who purchase flight tickets not designated as VTLs also have to serve at least a seven-day stay-home notice. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The isolation period will remain at seven days for individuals who are vaccinated and unwell, and those travelling to Singapore on trips not designated under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) arrangements.

This is because some Omicron cases are presenting later, despite the variant's shorter incubation period, Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said.

He was responding to a question put to the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force on Friday (Jan 21).

Asked if isolation periods could be shortened to five days or fewer, Associate Professor Mak said the current evidence does not give the authorities the confidence to do so.

"It is a curve where you see some cases presenting with slightly longer incubation periods, even though the majority now have slightly shorter incubation periods, compared with the Delta variant," he noted.

"It is because of this tail, where some travellers still have a longer incubation period, that we've been reluctant to move our protocols from a seven-day stay-home notice (SHN) to a shorter one of five days, or even less."

He said Singapore, which is seeking to prioritise health resources and accept the Omicron variant as endemic, will continue to monitor the evolving evidence and make changes based on it.

"As of now, it stays at seven days," added Prof Mak.

The Covid-19 task force had shortened isolation periods from 10 to seven days on Friday, citing the predominance of the Omicron variant here.

The SHN is for those who are vaccinated but are feeling unwell, or who have been assessed by doctors to need it.

Travellers who purchase flight tickets not designated as VTLs also have to serve at least a seven-day SHN, unless they are travelling from Hong Kong, Macau, China or Taiwan, places that the authorities have decided are lower risk.

Those who are unvaccinated continue to serve a 14-day SHN.

But Health Minister Ong Ye Kung noted that those who recover well during their seven-day SHN can switch to another track that applies to the majority of other Covid-19 positive cases.

Those who test positive but who are well need self-isolate only for 72 hours, after which they can resume normal activities upon testing negative in an antigen rapid test.

"What we have done now is to allow smooth transition from one track to another," he said.

"Along the way, we can assess that you are low risk, your symptoms are mild. After three days, (if) you test negative, you can come out."

Read next - New VTL testing rules, suspension of hospital visits: Latest Covid-19 rules at a glance

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.