Parliament: Covid-19

Cost of rapid testing down to under $50 from $80 earlier

A spectator taking an antigen rapid test for Covid-19 before a football match between Tampines Rovers and Geylang International at Our Tampines Hub on Dec 5.
A spectator taking an antigen rapid test for Covid-19 before a football match between Tampines Rovers and Geylang International at Our Tampines Hub on Dec 5.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The cost of rapid Covid-19 testing has dropped from $80 per person - when such test kits were first deployed - to under $50 now, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday.

The costs of the antigen rapid testing, which include operation and manpower costs, are likely to come down further, he added.

"Over time, we can expect more innovative rapid test kits that are cheaper, faster and more convenient to administer," Mr Wong told Parliament in a ministerial statement on Singapore's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"These will enable us to test more extensively and conveniently, to detect positive cases and protect our population more comprehensively."

Antigen rapid testing has been used as a pre-event safety measure for large-scale activities. It complements the more sensitive, but slower polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Mr Wong noted how concerns had emerged among various groups when Singapore first deployed testing in a significant way.

Some people thought it would be a hassle, he said, while others felt there would be a stigma associated with being identified for testing.

"But I hope by now we can all appreciate and understand the reasons why testing is important and necessary."

The minister stressed that frequent and widespread testing is an important enabler for Singapore to detect coronavirus cases early, adding that testing will be ramped up in the coming months.

Singaporeans must start getting used to the idea of regular testing being a part of their lives during the pandemic, he said.

At present, anyone who sees a doctor with an acute respiratory infection or flu-like symptoms will be advised to take a PCR test, Mr Wong said.

On average, last month, more than 14,000 individuals were tested every week. This was how several recent cases were picked up, he added.

"It is very important for anyone who feels unwell to see the doctor immediately," Mr Wong said. "And if the doctor advises you to be tested, please comply with the doctor's instructions."

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force in charge of tackling the Covid-19 crisis, also underscored the importance of sticking to safe management measures, even as Singapore is in phase three of its reopening.

Strict social distancing measures were eased on Dec 28, meaning that Singaporeans could gather in groups larger than five - but not more than eight - for the first time in months.

Capacity limits at attractions, malls and places of worship also went up, while rules for marriage solemnisations and live performances were relaxed.

Mr Wong said: "Unfortunately, there are a few who persist in pushing their luck and disregarding the rules.

"We have stepped up checks over the festive period. Firm enforcement actions have been and will continue to be taken against any breaches."

He urged Singaporeans to keep up the good habits cultivated over the past few months, such as wearing masks, practising good hygiene, washing their hands regularly and not touching their faces with their hands.

Added Mr Wong: "Let's not forget the basic measures."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2021, with the headline 'Cost of rapid testing down to under $50 from $80 earlier'. Print Edition | Subscribe