More than 10,000 taxi, private-hire drivers test negative for COVID-19, shows 'low prevalence' in community: MOH

More than 10,000 taxi, private-hire drivers test negative for COVID-19, shows 'low prevalence' in community: MOH

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Singapore
A taxi driver wearing a face mask reads the newspaper as he waits for customers amid the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore on May 5, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: More than 10,000 taxi and private-hire drivers who have taken voluntary COVID-19 tests have tested negative for disease, indicating “very low prevalence rates” in the community, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday (Sep 23).

Voluntary testing for taxi and private-hire drivers were conducted between Sep 8 and 22 at temporary swab sites such as taxi depots and regional screening centres.

Separately, more than 750 stallholders and food delivery personnel in Marine Parade were also tested as part of a pilot run on Sep 19 and 20.

All of them have also tested negative for COVID-19, said MOH in a press release.

MOH said in August that it planned to offer COVID-19 testing to community groups such as taxi drivers, food delivery workers, as well as stallholders at hawker centres, markets and coffee shops.

It said then that costs for the one-time test would be borne by the Government.

READ: Low community prevalence of COVID-19, 0.03% of people with acute respiratory infection test positive: Gan Kim Yong

Speaking to reporters at a multi-ministry task force press conference on Wednesday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that authorities will also consider extending COVID-19 testing to other groups such as university students in hostels.

Details on the roll-out of COVID-19 testing for stallholders and food delivery personnel will be announced when ready, MOH said.

"The results of the community testing operations indicate ... that our safe management measures are helping keep our community safe as we gradually resume our daily activities," said MOH in the press release.

READ: COVID-19: More people allowed to return to workplace, subject to conditions like capacity limits

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The tests are part of Singapore's efforts to expand its COVID-19 testing regime.

Surveillance testing is also being implemented on those above the age of 12 who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection. Groups such as pre-school teachers, residents and employees of elderly homes have also been tested for COVID-19.

Education Minister and co-chair of the task force Lawrence Wong said at the press conference on Wednesday that Singapore is exploring various methods of testing.

He also said that further relaxation of COVID-19 safety measures would depend on factors such as the extent of testing that is accessible.

“The current methods of testing rely heavily on the gold standard, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction), but there are new methods of testing which are coming to the market," said Mr Wong.

The new methods of testing are not as sensitive as PCR tests, but may be applied in certain cases, he said.

“If these tests could be made available, we could consider, even during Phase three, some additional liberalisation and further resumption of activities,” Mr Wong said. 

He added that it is a “work in progress” and further updates will be made available when ready.

Singapore reported 12 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including one community infection. The country has reported a total of 57,639 cases so far.

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Source: CNA/ga(cy)

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