SINGAPORE: Dormitory residents working in the construction, marine and process sectors who have recovered from COVID-19 will no longer be exempted from rostered routine testing.
"They will be enrolled back on RRT (rostered routine testing) once they have passed 270 days from the date of past infection," said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (Apr 22).
If identified as close contacts of COVID-19 cases, they will be quarantined to identify potential re-infection and reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading, the ministry added.
This takes effect from Apr 29.
Previously, all recovered workers need not undergo routine testing. Authorities had said in November that they were at low risk of re-infection, which means these workers are "unlikely to benefit from RRT".
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At a press conference by the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said that his ministry and MOH have "always closely monitored the situation for recovered workers".
"The latest scientific evidence from the cohort of recovered persons in Singapore nearing one year from the date of infection suggests a possible gradual decrease in their antibody levels," he said.
"Although this is just one indicator of immunity, given the new variants of the virus emerging, the risk of break through immune protection could have increased."
MOH and MOM decided to implement new measures after jointly reviewing the testing regime, in consultation with infectious disease specialists, he added.
"Immunity in recovered persons can wane, and caution is required around the infection risks in recovered persons," MOH said in a separate media release.
TIGHTER RULES FOR NEW WORKERS WITH POSITIVE SEROLOGY TESTS
The Health Ministry also announced that with immediate effect, all new migrant workers from higher-risk countries or regions, including those with a positive serology result, will have to undergo stay-home notice at a dedicated facility.
This is before they move on to the Migrant Workers Onboarding Centre for an additional testing regime, MOH said.
New migrant workers with a positive serology result, indicating a prior infection, will also have to go through rostered routine testing every 14 days, after they complete the stay-home notice and stay at the onboarding centre.
Previously, those with a positive serology test would undergo a seven-day period of isolation. They did not need to be tested further at the end of that isolation period as authorities "could be confident that they were no longer infectious", MOH had said in December.
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The tightened measures come as 17 recovered residents at Westlite Woodlands dormitory tested positive again for the coronavirus.
They were detected through special testing operations, after a 35-year-old Bangladeshi worker at the dormitory was confirmed to have COVID-19 on Monday. The 35-year-old worker tested positive after receiving his second dose of the vaccine.
“With the emergence of new variants of concern around the world, we will closely monitor for re-infection of recovered COVID-19 cases, and are reviewing our border measures for recovered travellers,” MOH said on Thursday.
Dr Tan also said that the Government is planning to give recovered workers a single booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Studies have shown that there is a boosting of the immunity after you’ve given them a single shot, so we do have plans for that,” he said.
Watch the full news conference and Q&A session: