SAF recruits can now receive first dose of Covid-19 vaccine before enlistment

An enlistee undergoing a Covid-19 swab test at Selarang Camp on June 29, 2021.
An enlistee undergoing a Covid-19 swab test at Selarang Camp on June 29, 2021.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - National service enlistees can now receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine before they start their basic military training.

This is part of the Singapore Armed Forces' range of measures to shore up its defences against the virus, as it moves towards living with Covid-19 instead of responding to it as an epidemic.

Those who joined the enlistment process at Selarang Camp on Tuesday (June 29) were in the first batch to do so. More than 90 per cent of them have received their first dose.

They were also swabbed before they set foot on Pulau Tekong, so that the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) can pick up any positive cases quickly.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, in an interview ahead of SAF Day on Thursday (July 1), said that more than 90 per cent of Singapore Armed Forces and Ministry of Defence personnel have received their first jab.

By the second week of July, 92 per cent will be fully vaccinated with both doses. That will mean the SAF has achieved herd immunity, said Dr Ng.

BMTC commander, Colonel Yee Kok Meng, told reporters on Tuesday that the training school is essential for building up operational units and future commanders.

To allay any medical concerns and to address queries about the vaccination process, BMTC has scheduled virtual engagement sessions with pre-enlistees and their parents, he said. Vaccination remains voluntary.

A measure that has been implemented since the phase two (heightened alert) started in May is to place recruits on stay-home restriction orders when they book out.

This means they can leave home only for essential activities when they are out of camp, and must inform their commanders when they do so.

Asked if this measure will affect recruits' rest during weekends, Col Yee said commanders will check in on the recruits in the morning and evening.

"In between, generally we won't have any additional measures for them. They can go about their business whether resting or destressing," he said.

He added that warnings will first be given if recruits do not adhere to the stay-home requirement. Repeat offenders face follow-up action by the training school.

Since early last year, BMTC training has been conducted in smaller groups. No interaction is allowed between groups.

Trainers who have to interact with different groups of recruits have to undergo rostered routine testing. This is currently done every seven days.

But recruits do not have to undergo routine testing as this has not been deemed necessary, said Col Yee.


Since early last year, BMTC training has been conducted in smaller groups. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Any suspected Covid-19 cases will be taken to the camp's medical centre to be isolated, swabbed and sent home to await further instructions. At the same time, the group that the suspected case belongs to will be ring-fenced until the swab result is out.

Since July last year, wastewater surveillance has also been implemented in Pulau Tekong, to detect any viral fragments there. Wastewater is taken four times a week and sent to a certified lab.

TraceTogether tokens are also issued to all recruits and staff on Pulau Tekong so that contact tracing can be carried out expediently.