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Govt expands scope of Covid-19 testing to include possible close contacts of infected patients

SINGAPORE — The health authorities are expanding the scope of their Covid-19 testing regime by swabbing possible close contacts of those who have caught the infection.

  • Expanded testing has been employed in Tampines block with nine cases
  • Too early to discuss whether more measures can be relaxed, says Gan Kim Yong
  • It would be months before country enters Phase 3, says Lawrence Wong

 

SINGAPORE — The health authorities are expanding the scope of their Covid-19 testing regime by swabbing possible close contacts of those who have caught the infection.

This is to ensure that cases are effectively isolated to prevent the disease from spreading to other people and forming new clusters, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Thursday (July 2) during a press conference by the multi-ministry task force handling the pandemic.

Mr Wong, who is also co-chair of the task force, added that the authorities are able to do so “because of our increased capabilities in testing and tracing”, and therefore, Singaporeans and those living here should “expect that potentially more people would be notified whenever there is a case”.

The new testing regime has already been employed at Block 111 Tampines Street 11, where nine Covid-19 cases have emerged.

As an added precaution, the Ministry of Health (MOH) placed 58 households that reside in the same block and share the same set of lifts and stairwell under active phone surveillance. All households have also been offered Covid-19 testing for them and their visitors.

“(This was done) given the possibility that there may be inadvertent contact between the households,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, the co-chair of the task force who was also present at the conference.

“These households are not really close contacts of confirmed cases, (therefore) they are assessed to have a lower risk of being infected.

“But we want to be a little bit more careful because asymptomatic transmission could occur. Therefore we offered testing for all of them.”

SITUATION REPORT ON PHASE TWO

During the press conference, Mr Gan said the average number of cases in the community as well as the number of unlinked cases have risen in the past week.

However, he added that the uptick in cases “is not unexpected as more activities (have) resumed and the number of interactions (have) increased”.

“A similar trend can be observed in many other countries that have exited from lockdowns and lifted restrictions,” he said.

That being said, Mr Gan added that a majority of cases have been picked up through active surveillance and screening, and on the whole, the incidence rate of community cases remains low.

When asked whether this means Singapore is on track to further loosen restrictions and move into Phase Three of the circuit breaker exit, Mr Gan said that Singapore is still in the “monitoring stage” and it is too early to discuss whether more measures can be relaxed at this stage.

Agreeing, Mr Wong said that it would be months before Singapore enters Phase Three, which he said “will effectively be the new steady state until a vaccine is found for the virus”.

“What does months mean? It’s really hard to pinpoint at this stage because we are just really two weeks into Phase Two and it’s still early days.”

The Government will continue to closely monitor the number of cases to prevent the emergence of multiple clusters.

“So I think this is the strategy going forward. We make sure that even as we open up, we are careful and do it in a way that does not create major clusters and large spikes of number of cases,” said Mr Gan.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus MOH Lawrence Wong Gan Kim Yong Covid-19 test

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