Visitors to Singapore who can't afford COVID-19 treatment may get help: Gan

·3-min read

By Amir Hussain and Wong Casandra

SINGAPORE — Visitors holding short term visit passes who have tested positive for COVID-19 but face financial difficulties may receive some aid to cover treatment costs for the virus, on a case-by-case basis.

“We are also mindful that some of the short term visitors who are here are of low income – they have financial difficulties – we are prepared to look at it on a case by case basis,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday (10 March).

“Those who have difficulties can come to us and we will see what we can do to help them.”

Gan was responding to media queries pooled at a press conference led by a multi-ministry taskforce on the virus.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) had a day earlier announced that visitors holding short-term visit passes who seek treatment for COVID-19 in Singapore will have to pay for their treatment, starting from Saturday (7 March).

Previously, it had said that the government would pay for all hospital bills incurred by COVID-19 patients in public hospitals here. This coverage, however, does not extend to outpatient treatment at general practitioner clinics or polyclinics, as well as treatment sought at private medical facilities.

COVID-19 testing fees for all such visitors, however, will continue to be waived. Local authorities said last week that each test costs about $260 to $270. More than 21,000 COVID-19 tests have been completed thus far, said MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak at the conference.

Gan, who is the co-chair of the taskforce, said that the free testing will encourage these visitors to get themselves detected for the virus if they are indeed infected.

“We want these short-term visitors to be responsible, but at the same time, we want to make sure that public resources in Singapore are focused more on local residents, pass holders, PRs and citizens,” reiterated Gan.

Both COVID-19 testing fees and treatment will be paid for by the government for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders who are admitted to public hospitals. Long-term pass holders include those on work pass, student’s pass, dependant’s pass and long-term visit pass.

Gan noted that while Singapore continues to see foreign patients coming here to seek treatment for COVID-19, it will only treat those tested for the virus here.

“If they already (test positive for) COVID-19 before they depart, we will clearly not allow them to enter,” he added.

On the cost of the treatment, Gan noted that it is “very difficult” to determine the exact amount as it depends on the severity of the patient’s condition.

“If the ICU (treatment) is prolonged, then the costs will be significantly higher,” he said. “Most of the COVID-19 cases we have seen so far, those are mild do not require a lot of medical treatment, so the costs will be significantly lower.”

To date, Singapore has confirmed 166 cases of the virus, while 93 have fully recovered and have been discharged. Twelve are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

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