Healthcare and eldercare sectors must continue with rostered routine testing for Covid-19

Testing remains an essential part of managing the pandemic, says Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Only vulnerable groups, such as the healthcare and eldercare sectors, and pre-schools, which have unvaccinated children, must continue with rostered routine testing from Friday (Feb 18), as the Government eases testing requirements in most sectors.

This is part of a move to evolve current rules to adapt to the distinct characteristics of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, speaking at the multi-ministry task force press conference on Wednesday.

It also comes as the Government shifts its focus to protecting the vulnerable population and managing severe cases.

Mr Ong said rostered routine testing is no longer very effective in preventing the spread of the virus because of the short serial interval - as short as two days - for Omicron.

"Serial interval" is the time taken between the first infected person experiencing symptoms of the virus, and the next person being infected and displaying symptoms.

Currently, people working in the food and beverage sector, such as restaurants and hawker centres, workers in shopping malls, and border workers at the airport and seaport are among those who undergo rostered routine testing.

These were considered higher-risk settings. But from Feb 18, they will no longer have to continue the testing regime.

"By the time you go through routine rostered testing and pick up a case, the individual would most likely have spread it to other people... It is better that we switch to a regime where people are advised to be very vigilant," said Mr Ong, who added that the positive rate of rostered routine testing is not high - on average, less than 0.2 per cent.

"If unwell, immediately take an ART (antigen rapid test) and make sure you've tested negative before you go out, and especially if you're meeting someone vulnerable."

Settings catering to the vulnerable groups - such as the healthcare sector, eldercare sector, and those with children below five years old - as well as selected providers of essential services, will continue with rostered routine testing.

Selected essential service sectors that have to continue with the testing regime will be informed by the respective agencies at a later date, said the Ministry of Health.

Companies that have remaining ART kits that were previously distributed to them for rostered routine testing are strongly encouraged to continue with the regime until the test kits are used up.

"Testing remains an essential part of managing the pandemic, because if an individual can use an antigen rapid test to detect infection early, he can take precautions to avoid transmitting (the virus) to other people, especially vulnerable persons such as seniors, or unvaccinated children," added Mr Ong.

Read next: What you need to know about Singapore's latest Covid-19 measures

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