COVID-19: New swab test at Singapore checkpoints for travellers showing respiratory symptoms, fever

Gloved hand holding swab test tubes
Photo from Getty Images

SINGAPORE — A new swab test for the COVID-19 infection will be implemented at checkpoints in Singapore from Wednesday (4 March) 2359 hours for all travellers who enter the country exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illnesses or fever, said Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce on the coronavirus, on Tuesday (3 March).

Speaking at a media doorstop, the National Development Minister said the new swab test extends testing to lower-risk symptomatic travellers as an added precautionary measure. All land, sea and air checkpoints currently conduct temperature screening on travellers.

“We are putting this in place precisely because…we want to have a mechanism in order to detect and identify upstream early on,” said Wong.

After undergoing the swab test, travellers will be allowed to continue with their journey. Each test outcome will take three to six hours, and individuals will then be contacted on their results. Those with positive results will be conveyed to hospital via ambulance.

Wong acknowledged that the swab tests would require more manpower but stated that it was important, “not least because beyond…the known infected sources, we don’t know whether the virus may be coming in from other sources”.

Those who refuse the swab test may face sanctions. Short-term visitors who refuse the test will be barred from entry into the country. Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders who refuse testing may have their immigration facilities or work pass privileges revoked or their validity shortened.

Travellers, including Singaporeans, who do not comply with the testing or who are uncontactable later may be penalised or prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act.

While the test increases the possibility of detecting imported cases at points of entry into Singapore, a negative result does not completely rule out the possibility of infection. Symptomatic travellers should continue to minimise contact with others and seek medical attention should their condition fail to improve over the next few days, said the Ministry of Health.

Singapore on Tuesday announced an extension of the travel ban to new visitors from South Korea, Iran, northern Italy, as these countries to see a surge in confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in recent days.

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