S'pore ramps up Covid-19 testing; seniors urged to get vaccinated

More quick test centres set up; ministers go online to convince elderly folk to get jabs

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong greeting Madam Ng Kah Noi, 69, and Mr Koh Kiang How, 73, who both own Koh Huat Heng Minimart, at Block 456 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, yesterday. Mandatory Covid-19 testing is being conducted for residents of the block, where
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong greeting Madam Ng Kah Noi, 69, and Mr Koh Kiang How, 73, who both own Koh Huat Heng Minimart, at Block 456 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, yesterday. Mandatory Covid-19 testing is being conducted for residents of the block, where the Ministry of Health is investigating likely Covid-19 transmission. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Singapore's efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 were in full swing yesterday, as ministers appealed online to seniors here to get vaccinated and encouraged those who might have been exposed to the virus to get tested.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited the site of mandatory Covid-19 testing for residents of Block 456 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, where the authorities are investigating likely transmission.

This comes as Singapore ramps up its testing capabilities, having set up 16 quick test centres since they were announced a month ago.

The Health Promotion Board told The Straits Times that four more of these centres, where workers in higher-risk settings can go for mandatory fast and easy tests, are on the way.

Testing is one part of Singapore's three-pronged strategy to tackle the coronavirus, alongside contact tracing and vaccination.

Three ministers took to Facebook yesterday to ask seniors above 60 to get their Covid-19 jabs. PM Lee had made a similar post on Saturday, in which he highlighted that about 200,000 seniors remain unvaccinated.

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday that three-quarters of Singapore residents have received their first dose, while about half have received both their jabs.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, noted that while countries such as the United Kingdom and Israel have higher second-dose rates than Singapore, they also have opened up "quite freely" and now face a rapid rise in new infections.

He said Singapore can learn from what is happening there. "We aim for low, but not necessarily zero, infections, with very low numbers (that are) seriously sick," said Mr Teo, who added that with every additional person getting vaccinated, the person and the wider community are better protected.

Similarly, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat also urged seniors who have not taken their jabs to stay safe by getting vaccinated.

Noting that he has been repeating this message so often that he might sound like a broken record, he wrote: "We are persevering in sending out this message as unvaccinated seniors have the highest risk of serious complications if they catch the virus."

Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, added that the vaccine is safe and appealed for seniors to get jabbed to protect themselves, as well as their loved ones.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said mobile vaccination teams have been set up across Singapore and that the Government has made it easier for seniors to get inoculated by allowing them to walk into any polyclinic or vaccination centre to get their shot.

"If your parents, grandparents or relatives are still unvaccinated, pass the message to them. Let's all do what we can to help protect our loved ones," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic.

During his visit to the testing centre yesterday, PM Lee, who is an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, spoke to residents, shop owners and swabbing staff. The testing operation is being held at a pavilion at Block 460A Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 and began at 9am yesterday.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is investigating likely Covid-19 transmission at Block 456, after cases of infection were detected in households in the block. Most are linked to the Jurong Fishery Port cluster and epidemiological investigations are ongoing. MOH is also testing owners and staff of commercial units at Block 456.

Singapore reported 117 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases yesterday, including 46 linked to the Jurong Fishery Port cluster and five to the cluster in KTV lounges.

The country has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the past week, with new local cases exceeding 100 in recent days.

Mr Wong and the two other co-chairs of the Covid-19 task force - Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong - will be speaking about the Government's response to Covid-19 in Parliament today.

  • Additional reporting by Rosalind Ang

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2021, with the headline S'pore ramps up Covid-19 testing; seniors urged to get vaccinated. Subscribe