Singapore to make over-the-counter DIY COVID-19 tests available to residents

SINGAPORE — Singapore residents will soon be able to purchase "do-it-yourself" COVID-19 tests over the counter at pharmacies, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (31 May).

"They are simple to use, and not so uncomfortable. And you can administer these on your own," he said in a publicly broadcast speech, during which he addressed Singapore's plans for managing its COVID-19 situation.

Lee noted that the tests are aimed at those who might be worried that they have COVID-19 or those working frontline jobs who wish to test themselves frequently.

Pointing to the different types of COVID-19 tests now available in Singapore – including antigen rapid tests (ART), saliva tests, breathalysers, wastewater surveillance and sniffer dogs – he said that such alternatives to Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests would "help us detect and isolate persons quickly when they are most infectious".

ART can produce results within 30 minutes and are currently used to indicate whether a person is likely to be infected with COVID-19, after which the diagnosis can be confirmed with a PCR test.

Wider testing

With the availability of faster and cheaper tests, Singapore is also looking to widen its approach to COVID-19 testing, said Lee.

Going forward, the government will conduct routine testing at more workplaces, such as offices, restaurants and shopping malls. Those working jobs that involve close contact with many people – such as taxi drivers, masseurs, stage performers, and fitness instructors – can be also tested regularly, said Lee.

"Henceforth, we will not only test to identify infections when a new case pops up. We will also routinely and regularly test people who appear well, in normal work or social or community settings, to make them and these places safe," he added.

Lee noted that such extensive testing would help with the resumption of larger scale events or gatherings, citing the example of using fast and easy tests before events such as religious services, weddings or concerts.

"Therefore, you should expect routine, large-scale, fast and simple testing to be part of our new normal," said Lee.

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