SINGAPORE: Various allied health services such as psychology services, podiatry and social work will be re-classified as essential with effect from Wednesday (Apr 29), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Tuesday.
Previously, only healthcare services that, if not provided, would result in significant or rapid deterioration of a patient's medical condition and potentially threaten their health and well-being, had been classed as essential and allowed to operate under Singapore's "circuit breaker" period.
READ: COVID-19 circuit breaker extended until Jun 1 as Singapore aims to bring down community cases ‘decisively’: PM Lee
Initially scheduled to end on May 4, the elevated safe distancing measures under the circuit breaker period have been extended until Jun 1.
In light of the extension, the health ministry has "re-categorised" various previously non-essential allied health services outside of public healthcare institutions as essential services too, said an MOH spokesperson.
These include rehabilitation or therapy services and other allied health services such as dietetics, social work, psychology and podiatry.
The list of essential services on the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI)'s covid.gobusiness.gov.sg website also lists services in audiology, prosthetics and orthotics.
Restrictions will be in place to make sure overall movement and interactions are kept to a minimum, said the spokesperson.
This includes keeping therapy to one-on-one sessions and prioritising face-to-face consultations for patients whose condition could significantly or rapidly deteriorate, potentially threatening their health and well-being, if they do not receive the therapy or treatment.
Most outpatient allied health services can be delivered through tele-consultation, added MOH, urging providers to use this method where possible.
All allied health professionals must continue to comply with safe distancing, crowd management and personal protective equipment measures.
RESTRICTIONS FOR SPECIFIC SERVICES
Specific restrictions will govern the operation of various allied health services, according to the essential services list.
Private clinics or centre-based services for those with disabilities, developmental needs or special educational needs can only operate one day a week, from 9am to 5pm.
This will be based on the last digit of the clinic or health professional's unique entity number (UEN); those with odd numbers can only provide their services on Wednesdays, and those with even numbers, on Mondays.
Each session should not be longer than an hour, and no more than six patients or clients can be seen per day.
Allied health providers carrying out home therapy can only see up to six patients a week, one-on-one on an appointment basis. Similarly, each session should not stretch beyond an hour.
As for outpatient psychology services, service providers can only operate for up to four hours a day, for five days a week, among other restrictions.
This applies to companies with psychologists that were previously granted exemptions, and individual psychologists registered on the Singapore Register of Psychologists.
All these restrictions will apply until May 17, after which requirements will be updated at a later date, according to MTI's website.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to remove counselling as one of the exempted services after the Ministry of Health amended its earlier press release.