All households here will receive Covid-19 self-test kits, as Singapore scales up its testing regimen and works to live with the coronavirus.
These antigen rapid test (ART) kits, now widely available at retailers, are being distributed by the Government to households and will be rolled out first to those near large Covid-19 clusters, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament yesterday.
"We will progressively scale up and distribute to everyone in Singapore," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.
As these kits are being distributed, Singapore will also be rolling out other ways of testing for the virus. Mr Wong said these include breathalyser tests in Parliament before each sitting, in addition to similar tests at Singapore's checkpoints, and wastewater surveillance in estates.
"Regular testing, and the social consciousness to get ourselves tested regularly, will protect us and keep us safe as we transit to the new normal," he said.
Mr Wong and his two co-chairs - Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong - spoke in Parliament to give an update on the Government's response to Covid-19.
Stressing that everyone has a role in Singapore's controlled and phased reopening, Mr Wong said safe management measures will remain important for some time.
Mask wearing may well be one of the last rules to go in the new normal, he said. While Singapore may consider dispensing with masks when outdoors, he said it would still make sense to wear them in indoor, enclosed environments, where transmission risks are greater.
Basic safety measures like wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from others can help reduce transmission effectively, he said.
"So we must stay disciplined and continue to maintain these practices, even as we transition towards the new normal."
Singapore will also continue with regular enforcement checks and take strict action against any breach of the rules.
Mr Wong noted that since April last year, a task force comprising various government agencies has been coordinating the enforcement of safe management measures in public venues. "They have been doing daily enforcement checks. Where laws were flouted, offenders, both operators and individuals, have been taken to task and cases publicised."
But Singapore cannot rely on enforcement efforts alone to get through the pandemic, Mr Wong said, and the country will be safer if people here demonstrate social solidarity and a collective sense of responsibility to do the right thing.
For instance, people can take precautions such as practising good personal hygiene, seeing a doctor and staying at home when not feeling well, and getting themselves tested and minimising social interactions as they wait for the results.
Mr Wong acknowledged how disheartened people here are over the new coronavirus clusters caused by people who broke the rules and acted irresponsibly. But he said that over the past 18 months, the vast majority of Singaporeans have shown tremendous discipline.
"Many have also been working tirelessly in our fight against Covid-19. It's not just our healthcare workers like our doctors and nurses at our hospitals, clinics and community care facilities," he said.
"It's also our fellow Singaporeans on the front lines elsewhere... They include our safe distancing ambassadors, food delivery riders, cleaners and many more."
Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Facebook that he tried out the TracieX breathalyser before attending Parliament, adding that the process was fast, simple and non-invasive. The breathalyser has been registered with the Health Sciences Authority and is undergoing validation.
Touching on the statements that the three co-chairs of the task force made in Parliament, PM Lee noted that the recent large cluster from Jurong Fishery Port has forced Singapore to delay its reopening, but that the country's vaccination programme is progressing well.
He added that the task force will review Covid-19 measures here early next month and that hopefully by then, the numbers will have stabilised and Singapore can start to ease up.
"We have to accept a certain level of fluidity as part of living with endemic Covid-19. Let's stay the course; we will get through this together," he said.