SINGAPORE: Starting next week, those aged 45 and above who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection (ARI) will be tested for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday (Jun 18).
This is part of the ministry’s plan to expand its testing strategy as the economy reopens, with the aim of eventually testing all patients who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection.
The risk of severe COVID-19 infection increases from age 45, said MOH, adding that this testing strategy will progressively be extended to include more groups.
“We aim to test all individuals who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection at first presentation to a doctor,” said MOH in a media release.
“There is clinical and scientific evidence to show that a person is most infectious right before and immediately after the start of symptoms. Testing individuals diagnosed with ARI would therefore allow us to detect infected individuals early to quickly contain further spread.”
Before this, the strategy to test those with acute respiratory infection applied to groups such as seniors 65 years old and above, healthcare workers, staff members of educational institutions, as well as students aged 13 and above.
At least six students have tested positive for COVID-19 due to the Ministry of Education’s testing of students and school employees diagnosed withacute respiratory infection.
MOE had said the cases are not a cluster, as the students are all from different schools.
As part of Singapore’s expanding testing strategy, close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases will also be tested before the start of their quarantine.
“If anyone tests positive, we start contact tracing again based on this person’s activity map,” said MOH.
“In this way, we broaden the list of suspect cases, and are able to isolate them early, and stop the virus from spreading.”
Individuals with respiratory symptoms should see a doctor immediately so that they can be tested if necessary, said MOH, adding that the COVID-19 tests ordered by the doctors at polyclinics and Public Health Preparedness Clinics are fully subsidised.
MOH noted that it has started regular testing of frontline workers supporting its operations and those returning to work in the construction, marine and process sectors.
“We will continue to monitor the situation, and based on our assessment of risks, we will progressively expand our screening tests to more groups in the community,” it added.
As previously announced, more regional screening centres will also be set up to make testing more convenient.
MOH also gave an update on Thursday on the contact tracing app TraceTogether, which now has two million users.
The wearable TraceTogether tokens will be rolled out from the end of June, starting with the elderly.