Regional screening centres will be set up progressively across the island to support increased Covid-19 testing needs, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.
These centres, which will be set up by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), will be used to carry out active testing for target groups, and will be located in places that are easily accessible, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a press release.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Gan said many of the community cases in the past week came from active case finding, and with increased interaction among people, a rise in the number of cases is expected.
Mr Gan said: "What is important for us is to mitigate the risks, with basic hygiene practices and precautions, and ring-fencing cases quickly with timely contact tracing so that large clusters do not form.
"Testing is a key enabler of our overall efforts to safely re-open."
Two of the regional centres at the Old Police Academy and The Float @ Marina Bay started up last Tuesday, and two more centres, one at the Bukit Gombak sport hall and Bishan sport hall, were set up yesterday.
Another centre will be set up in Bedok North, and there are also other swabbing sites set up in partnership with private partners, such as the testing facility at One Farrer Hotel.
"As testing capacity and operations ramp up, HPB will set up more of such centres as necessary at suitable locations across the island," said MOH.
The regional centres will not take walk-in requests for screening.
To quickly contain potential spread in the community, Mr Gan said testing will be expanded to individuals who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection (ARI) at first presentation to a doctor.
He said: "We are starting first with groups such as seniors 65 years and above, healthcare workers, as well as staff of educational institutions and older students."
Previously, people with ARIs would be issued with a medical certificate for up to five days for observation before being suggested to go for a test.
"We have now shortened the period.
"Once you present yourself to the general practitioner, if you have ARI symptoms, we will swab you straight away rather than to have to send you back...because the time where we wait for the protracted period, there may be infection that's going on," he added.
Patients who refuse to be tested will be counselled by doctors, said MOH director of medical services Kenneth Mak.
Other groups that have gone through active testing are staff and residents in senior homes and pre-school staff.
Screening has also been carried out for workers returning to work in the construction, marine and process sectors.
Testing will be expanded to cover workers with a higher risk of exposure to Covid-19, such as front-line workers supporting Covid-19 operations, said MOH.
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.
For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.