SINGAPORE - All households here will receive Covid-19 self-test kits progressively, as Singapore scales up its testing regime and works to live with the coronavirus.
These antigen rapid test (ART) kits, which are 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 on Monday (July 26).
"We're starting with those who live near markets where large clusters have been identified. 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 on Monday to give an update on the Government's response to Covid-19.
Stressing that everyone has a role to play in Singapore's controlled and phased reopening, Mr Wong said safe management measures will remain relevant and important for some time.
Mask-wearing may well be one of the last rules to go in the new normal, said the minister. While Singapore may consider dispensing with masks when outdoors, Mr Wong pointed out that 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, including the police, 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," he said.
But Singapore cannot rely on enforcement efforts alone to get through the pandemic, Mr Wong said, and the country will be much safer if people here demonstrate social solidarity as well as a collective sense of responsibility to do the right thing.
People here can incorporate a few simple but effective precautions into their daily routines to help in Singapore's fight against the virus, he said. This includes practising good personal hygiene, seeing a doctor and staying at home when not feeling well, as well as getting themselves tested and minimising social interactions as they wait for the results.
Mr Wong acknowledged how disheartened and upset 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 - some in less expected settings, others in less visible places. They include our safe distancing ambassadors, food delivery riders, cleaners and many more."
Mr Wong highlighted the efforts of Mr Lok Chun Kiet, a cleaner with facility management company CBM who attends to high-risk locations where positive cases have been detected.
He also made special mention of Ms Siti Zulaina Md Said, a senior medical technologist with the National Public Health Laboratory at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, who leads a team in investigating outbreaks and undertaking testing surveillance.
There are many more unsung heroes like the two of them, said Mr Wong, who thanked them all for contributing to Singapore's fight against Covid-19.
"These actions of our fellow Singaporeans inspire us, and give us confidence and hope that we will get through this together," he said.
"We are all disappointed by the latest outbreak and the heightened alert restrictions. But we will recover and bounce back."
On Monday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Facebook that he tried out the TracieX breathalyser before attending Parliament and said that the process was fast, simple and non-invasive.
The breathalyser, which he said was developed locally by Nanyang Technological University start-up Silver Factory Technology, has been registered with the Health Sciences Authority and is currently undergoing validation.
Touching on the statements that the three task force ministers made in Parliament, Mr Lee noted that the recent large cluster from the Jurong Fishery Port has forced Singapore to delay its reopening, but the country’s vaccination programme is progressing well.
He added that the task force will review Covid-19 measures here in early August, 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.