SINGAPORE - Certain visitors to hospitals will be allowed to stay for longer than 20 minutes from Monday (June 21), but only if they first complete an antigen rapid test (ART).
The Ministry of Health said the time limit is being lifted for certain groups of visitors from Monday, but that the negative ART result will be necessary regardless of their vaccination status.
However, several hospitals contacted by The Straits Times said they are not yet ready to offer the test for these visitors.
So far, only Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has said it will meet the deadline, announcing on Facebook on Sunday that its tests will be conducted at its ART centre located in its Bowyer Block.
Alexandra Hospital said it will begin the mandatory ARTs on Tuesday. Tan Tock Seng Hospital said it started offering the tests on May 31.
The move to test visitors to hospitals comes amid a broader nationwide push to use tests like ARTs as a tool to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. From Monday, all visitors who want to enter nursing homes must also produce a negative ART result.
While most visitors to hospitals will still not be able to stay past the 20-minute time limit, MOH recognises exceptional circumstances where hospitals may wish to exercise discretion to allow visitors to stay for longer periods, particularly visitors of three categories of patients.
These are patients who are critically ill, birthing or post-partum mothers, and patients who require additional care support, such as those with mental disabilities.
Visitors involved in caregiver training will also be allowed to stay beyond the maximum duration of 20 minutes after clearing an ART.
MOH said the ART must be performed on the day of the visit, and may be administered by hospital staff or done by the visitor himself if it is supervised.
Those who can produce their own negative ART or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result obtained within the past 24 hours, or those who can produce a Covid-19-positive PCR test result issued within the last 270 days, may be exempt from the testing.
Results from self-test kits will not be allowed said MOH. Tests must be administered by or under the supervision of hospital staff.
Designated caregivers of patients will receive an SMS with information about the ART, SGH added.
Swab results will be ready within 20 minutes of the ART, and visitors will be given a sticker to indicate their cleared status once the results come back negative.
All tests for visitors to subsidised wards will be funded by MOH. It is unclear how much, if any, those in unsubsidised wards will pay.
Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital said they are working on ART plans but that the details are not yet finalised.
Details will be put up on their websites and social media platforms, they said. In the interim, they are taking other measures. Visitors are not allowed to eat or drink in wards or use patients' toilets. They are also not allowed to sit on patients' beds.
In recent months, clusters have been detected at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and care homes such as MINDSville @ Napiri, a facility for adults with intellectual disabilities.
Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that Tan Tock Seng Hospital will be offering the tests but did not specify when it will begin doing so. TTSH has since clarified that they started offering the tests on May 31.