Contact tracing now more targeted, no more 'blunderbuss' approach: MOH official

·Assistant News Editor
·2-min read
Director of medical services Kenneth Mak, who sits on the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19, addresses reporters at a virtual media briefing on Monday, 8 November 2021. (PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information
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Director of medical services Kenneth Mak, who sits on the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19, addresses reporters at a virtual media briefing on Monday, 8 November 2021. (PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information )

SINGAPORE — Health authorities are no longer taking a "blunderbuss" approach to contact tracing. 

Instead, it is now focused on settings such as hospitals and nursing homes where vulnerable people may have been exposed to the risk of transmission, said the Ministry of Health's director of medical services (DMS) Kenneth Mak on Monday (8 November).

While authorities have not given up on contact tracing and epidemiological investigations, the approach is much more targeted, and not a "blunderbuss" approach where very aggressive contact tracing and isolating of people across different sectors are carried out. 

"We are focused on where we have concerns about vulnerable people being exposed, where potentially transmission may occur towards vulnerable people," said Prof Mak, who spoke at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 (MTF).

"So we are particularly meticulous when it comes to contact tracing that occurs in hospitals, in healthcare settings, in nursing homes, in institutional settings, in the schools, in pre-school settings, where we have interest in making sure that those who are not able to vaccinate themselves, that we are able to protect them further by making sure that we disrupt these chains of transmission." 

Prof Mak was responding to a query from Yahoo News Singapore on the extent to which contact tracing is still being carried out, given that there are thousands of new COVID cases each day while the city-state transitions to the endemic phase of the pandemic. 

The MTF did not respond to Yahoo News Singapore's additional query on when the use of the controversial TraceTogether app, which aids contact tracing, might cease. In January, it was revealed that the police are empowered under the Criminal Procedure Code to obtain TraceTogether data for use in criminal investigations, despite earlier assurances to the contrary from then Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan.

Prof Mak noted that while some contact tracing does occur in relation to other clusters, such as in hawker centres, the responsibility is shared between the Ministry of Health and other agencies. "They will carry out the relevant and appropriate actions to disrupt spread, including shutting and closing premises for cleaning, educating and engaging more testing that takes place within these settings itself."

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