Singapore to Make Covid Test Available to Anyone Next Month
(Bloomberg) -- Anyone in Singapore who requires a coronavirus test will be able to get one from an approved provider from Dec. 1 as the country seeks to resume more economic and social activities.
“We will now make Covid-19 testing more accessible for all,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement Tuesday. “This includes individuals who require pre-departure testing,” and ministry approval will no longer be required for tests before traveling abroad.
Singapore had taken a targeted approach to testing that prioritized people with symptoms or a higher risk of contracting the virus, in contrast to the on-demand strategy seen in other countries such as New Zealand that have contained the pathogen.
Singapore has largely controlled the virus, with new daily community cases hovering at or near zero over the past few weeks. The city-state, which in the early months of the pandemic saw daily infections climb into the hundreds, implemented partial lockdown measures in April that included mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and working from home.
Since then, Singapore has restarted its economy in phases, reopening schools and granting limited resumption of a few social activities. Last week, the government said it would permit some bars and nightclubs to reopen from December in a pilot program.
The city-state has been building up its capacity to conduct tests for Covid-19, and has said it’s on track to perform 40,000 tests a day by November. It also plans to set up a dedicated testing laboratory at Changi Airport, where it has the capacity to swab as many as 10,000 passengers a day.
Still, with the virus raging in parts of Europe and the U.S., nations in Asia, including Singapore, are urging caution, conscious of not undoing the good work by letting in a swarm of infected travelers. According to the statement, Singapore will require all inbound travelers from high-risk countries or regions to take a Covid test within 72 hours of their departure for the city-state.
“We need to double down on our surveillance and testing efforts to nip the seeds of transmission to prevent further spread,” the Ministry of Health said. “And because there will still always be the possibility of asymptomatic or undetected cases among us, a strong set of safe management measures and a comprehensive test-trace-isolate system are key to keeping the virus under control.”
There are currently around 600 clinics and providers that can conduct Covid-19 tests in the city-state. Testing will be available for any company or individual from an approved provider from 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30.
“The road ahead is still a long one,” Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong said during Tuesday’s briefing. “Vaccines, even when available, will take time to manufacture and distribute to the world. Meanwhile, we must continue to remain cautious and work together.”
The government’s pandemic task force has said that phase three of Singapore’s reopening may start by year-end. That would allow for a further easing of measures, alongside stepped-up virus testing and contact-tracing controls. It would also gradually see more travel resume, and the government has said it’s exploring ways to deploy more frequent testing to let more travelers enter Singapore without needing to quarantine.
Last month, Singapore and Hong Kong said they planned to launch a travel bubble with quarantine replaced by coronavirus testing. While those plans have yet to take effect, the relevant authorities in Hong Kong said Tuesday they’d announce details on its implementation within one to two days.
Gan also said that Singapore is in discussions with Pfizer Inc., along with several other pharmaceutical companies. A vaccine developed by Pfizer shows “extraordinary” results, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., Anthony Fauci, said Monday. Meanwhile an antibody therapy from Eli Lilly & Co. was granted emergency-use authorization.
Singapore is seeking to secure a broad and diversified vaccine portfolio, and only vaccines that are assessed to be relatively safe and efficacious will be offered to its population, according to the statement.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.