SINGAPORE: The recent rise in new COVID-19 community cases during Phase 1 of Singapore's reopening is due to "proactive" screening, and the situation remains "under control" with the increase in new cases “within expectations”, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force said on Monday (Jun 8).
Speaking at a press conference, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that some Singaporeans worry that the number of community cases has risen quickly after the country went into Phase 1 of reopening at the end of the "circuit breaker" period.
“In fact, many of the community cases, we have seen in the past week were due to active case finding as we proactively conduct surveillance to test on our target groups,” he said.
These target groups include staff and residents in residential homes for seniors, pre-school staff members, and those returning to work, especially in the construction marine and process sectors in preparation for the reopening of more workplaces.
Such proactive efforts are important, as they allow the authorities to identify COVID-19 cases early, "ring fence" their contacts, and quickly contain any potential spread in the community.
“We have also extended testing to individuals who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection (ARIs) at first presentation to a doctor,” Mr Gan said.
This will apply first to groups such as seniors 65 years and above, healthcare workers, and staff members of educational institutions and older students, he said.
Previously, people with ARIs would first be issued with medical leave for up to five days, so that their condition may be observed.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force with Mr Gan, said that there has been some increase in the number of daily cases in the community.
“But as you can see it's partly due to our stepped up testing regime. On the whole, our assessment is that the situation over the past week remains under control, and the new daily cases are within expectations,” he said.
The authorities will continue to monitor the situation over the coming week. They will decide later this month if the country can move to Phase 2 of reopening, he added.
MORE SWAB TEST CENTRES BEING SET UP
Mr Gan also said that the Health Promotion Board has been setting up regional screening centres progressively across the island.
Two of these centres, at the Old Police Academy and The Float at Marina Bay, started on Jun 2.
On Monday, two more centres at Bukit Gombak and Bishan sports halls were set up, he added. Another centre will be set up in Bedok North.
There are also other swabbing centres being set up in collaboration with private partners, such as a testing facility at One Farrer Hotel, he said.
At the same time, Ministry of Health director of medical services Associate Professor Kenneth Mak said that testing issues that one of the laboratories was experiencing have been resolved.
The laboratory continues to contribute towards testing, he added. There is a weekly dialogue and discussion with laboratories to ensure testing standards, as part of a quality improvement programme, he said.
In response to a question on why there are days when fewer tests are conducted, Assoc Prof Mak said that this depends on the dormitory that is "allocated" for the day.
"The number does vary, sometimes from a larger number in one day, and a smaller number another day. We have not changed our testing tempo," he said.
While the Government continues to set up more swab test centres to ramp up testing and contact tracing, strong infection control measures will continue to be the mainstay of the fight against COVID-19, Mr Gan said.
“We must therefore continue to practice strict safe distancing and good personal hygiene, to prevent transmission,” he said.
Watch the full news conference and Q&A session: