Singapore ramping up testing capacity for foreign workers: Gan Kim Yong
Health Minister says 21,000 migrant workers have been tested since start of Covid-19 outbreak
Singapore has been increasing its capacity to test foreign workers for Covid-19, instead of slowing down the rate of testing, said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong.
"There have been some comments that we have reduced the testing of migrant workers, leading to a drop in the number of Covid-19 confirmed cases, " he said at a multi-ministry press conference yesterday.
"Let me say that this is not true. Our testing capacity for migrant workers is about 3,000 a day.
"We have not reduced it. Instead, we have been increasing the capacity of testing of our migrant workers. The rate of testing has not slowed down."
Mr Gan's comments came after some experts cautioned that the recent dip in Covid-19 numbers among migrant workers may be due to reduced testing at some dormitories.
In an interview with CNA on Saturday, infectious diseases expert Professor Dale Fisher, chair of infection control at the National University Hospital, said that at some dorms, the infection rate or positivity rate of the tests is so high that "you get to the point where you don't need to test any more".
The number of cases in dormitories has been on a downward trajectory since the beginning of last week, down from more than 1,000 cases to 597 cases on Saturday.
But there was an uptick on Sunday, with 886 cases recorded in dormitories.
Mr Gan said a total of 21,000 migrant workers living in dormitories have been tested since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, which equates to one in 15 migrant workers here.
"This is far higher than the testing rate seen in other countries like South Korea, which is one in 90, as well as other countries like the United States, Britain, or even Hong Kong," he said.
At dormitories where the assessed rate of infection is extremely high, symptomatic workers will be isolated even without a confirmed Covid-19 test.
Mr Gan said Singapore has also been building its testing capacity at the national level over the past few months.
It is now able to conduct more than 8,000 tests a day, up from an average of 2,900 tests.
He said testing serves three objectives: to diagnose patients so they can receive appropriate care, to carry out contact tracing, and to carry out surveillance to focus on high-risk and targeted groups.
Testing of migrant workers in essential services has been prioritised, and testing in dormitories is also being carried out actively to prevent further clusters from emerging.
National Development minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said tests for essential workers are starting to be done more regularly, particularly for those working in vulnerable areas such as nursing homes and healthcare workers who come into close contact with confirmed cases.
"Each time we do these tests, it will help us to detect early and also to prevent any clusters from forming," said Mr Wong.
This will ensure the well-being of the essential workforce and protect seniors and vulnerable members of the public.
He added that testing is critical as Singapore plans for a phase beyond the circuit breaker where restrictions are loosened.
"This needs to be done in a safe manner without us risking new infection clusters from forming," he said.
But Mr Wong highlighted that everyone should still practise social responsibility.
He said: "Testing, while as critical and important as it is, cannot be a substitute for personal responsibility and safe distancing measures."