Home News As rise, calls for swab testing for travellers resound

As imported coronavirus cases rise, calls for swab testing for travellers resound

Singaporeans have questioned why new arrivals are not tested upon entering the country




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Singapore— After weeks of zero in Singapore, the country now has over one 100 such cases in less than one month. Singapore’s new wave of imported cases started on June 30, and by Tuesday, July 28, the Ministry of Health (MOH) had recorded 106 imported cases.

These cases have come from nine different countries, including India, the Philippines, the United States and Pakistan. Of the 106 infected persons, 27 are work pass holders and 23 are Singaporeans, reported The Straits Times (ST) on Thursday, July 30. There are also 19 dependent pass holders and 20 permanent residents among the new imported cases.

India, which now has the third largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the globe after the US and Brazil, comprises over half (62) of Singapore’s new imported cases. Around the world, only the US, Brazil and India have over one million coronavirus cases, with India hitting the 1.5 million mark just this week.

Among Singapore’s other new imported cases, 23 are from the Philippines, which on Wednesday (July 29) surpassed China’s total case count, with 85,486 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The number of Singapore’s imported cases began to rise again after more long-term pass holders were allowed to enter at the beginning of Phase 2 of the Circuit Breaker restrictions.

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And while all travellers are required to serve a 14-day stay-home notice (SHN) when they arrive, the ST reports that some Singaporeans have questioned why new arrivals are not tested upon entering the country.

They are, however, given swab tests shortly before the end of their SHN periods, and are required to take a private vehicle to testing centers.

As people who are infected are believed to possibly show false negative test results early in the infection, some infectious disease experts have advised that tests be administered later rather than sooner.

The ST quotes vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Associate Professor Alex Cook, as saying swabbing arrivals may be better than having them serve SHN periods.

“This would still help filter out the majority of infected travellers, save money and inconvenience related to quarantine, and could potentially lower the risk of spread to the general population, since those testing positive could then be isolated at hospital or a facility.”

He added, ”The lesson we learnt from that second wave was that it is vital to ensure that infected cases are quarantined in a way that minimises the risk of spillover. As long as we continue to keep new arrivals separated from the community, then it’s not a concern.”

At the moment, travellers arriving from Australia (except Victoria state), Brunei, Macau, mainland China, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam may serve their SHNs in their residences, but travellers from anywhere else must stay at dedicated facilities. They are also required to pay for their SHNs if they are not Singaporean citizens or permanent residents. —/TISG

Read also: Morning brief: Coronavirus update for July 30, 2020

Morning brief: Coronavirus update for July 30, 2020

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