[Updated as of 29 Aug 2020]
Singapore entered Phase 2 of our gradual re-opening on 19 June 2020.
As more activities resume, the number of COVID-19 cases in the community is expected to rise. To enable our economy and society to re-open safely in Phase 2 and beyond, the Government will expand our COVID-19 testing strategy, and further encourage digital tools that support contact tracing.
Expansion of testing strategy
Currently, Singapore’s testing strategy is focused on active case finding among the community, and active surveillance testing amongst the more vulnerable groups. The Ministry of Health (MOH) plans to increase our testing capacity to 40,000 tests per day.
First, MOH has stepped up testing of close contacts. Where MOH would previously only quarantine close contacts of confirmed cases, they now will test all of them before the start of their quarantine. This broadens the list of suspect cases, and allows MOH to isolate them early, preventing the virus from spreading further.
Second, MOH has conducted comprehensive surveillance testing on all individuals above the age of 12 diagnosed with acute respiratory infection (ARI). This has allowed MOH to detect infected individuals early, as there is clinical and scientific evidence that a person is most infectious right before and immediately after the start of symptoms.
If you are have respiratory symptoms, please see a doctor immediately so that you can be tested. All COVID-19 tests ordered by doctors at polyclinics at Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPC) are fully subsidised.
Third, MOH will continue to conduct more active surveillance testing in the community. MOH will set up more Regional Screening Centres (RSC) to bring testing services closer to the community. Individuals with ARI, as well as those who require regular routine testing due to their work in higher risk sectors, will be able to get tested conveniently.
Fourth, MOH will progressively reach out to identified community groups to offer COVID-19 testing on a one-time basis (from 29 Aug). For a start, MOH have plans to provide testing to community groups such as taxi and Private Hire Car (PHC) drivers, food delivery personnel, key vendors servicing foreign worker dormtories, as well as stallholders at F&B establishments. While there has been no local evidence that these community groups are of a higher risk of being infected, tests will be offered given the nature of their working environment, such as the high frequency of interactions with members of public. The costs of the tests for these identified groups will be fully borne by the government.
Digital tools to strengthen contact tracing
Technology is another key enabler to allow us to open our economy and society confidently. Digital tools – such as SafeEntry and TraceTogether – help to complement manual contract tracing process, by speeding up the contact tracing process and improving its accuracy.
SafeEntry – all businesses and services that are in operation are required to use this – it helps fill in a patient’s activity map quickly, so that contact tracers do not start on a blank slate. The records also help patients jog their memory, hence speeding up the time needed for activity mapping.
TraceTogether works in tandem, by providing contact tracers proximity data, so that they can quickly identify people who have been in close contact with the patient.
With more activities resuming in Phase 2, it is critical that everyone uses TraceTogether. There are currently 2 million uses of the TraceTogether app in Singapore. For those who do not have the requisite smartphones for the app the work properly, the Government will be providing TraceTogether Tokens from end-June, starting with elderly and progressively to the rest of the population.
It’s a collective effort – play your part
Even while expand our testing strategy and improve contact tracing efforts, it is important that everyone plays their part in our country’s safe re-opening.
Remember – you are the first line of defence.
Continue to practise strict safe distancing and maintain good personal hygiene, so that we can reduce the risk of transmissions in the community.
With our collective efforts as a society, we can re-open safely and gradually resume more activities.