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Workers who have recovered from COVID-19 exempted from rostered routine testing: MOH, MOM

Workers who have recovered from COVID-19 exempted from rostered routine testing: MOH, MOM

A healthcare worker dressed in personal protective equipment collects a nasal swab sample from a migrant worker for COVID-19 testing at a foreign workers' domitory in Singapore on Apr 27, 2020. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: All workers who have recovered from COVID-19 are now exempted from rostered routine testing, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a joint press release on Friday (Nov 6).

The move comes after a review of the latest scientific evidence suggested that these workers are at "low risk" of re-infection, said the ministries.

There have been no cases of re-infection in Singapore to date, they added.

The exemption applies to all dormitory dwelling workers as well as workers in the Construction, Marine and Process (CMP) sectors, regardless of their place of residence.

READ: New task force set up to improve support for migrant workers' mental health

IN FOCUS: The long, challenging journey to bring COVID-19 under control in migrant worker dormitories

"LOW RISK"

MOM and MOH said that the latest evidence showed that the "vast majority" of a cohort of recovered workers continue to have antibodies, including neutralising antibodies that are responsible for clearing the viral infection, at day 180 from the onset of COVID-19.

"This suggests that these workers are at low risk of developing re-infection," said the ministries.

Effective Wednesday, workers who had recovered from COVID-19 were no longer required to undergo rostered routine testing.

"This is in view of the low risk of re-infection, which means the workers are unlikely to benefit from rostered routing testing," said MOH and MOM.

In addition, recovered workers within 180 days of infection need not be quarantined if they are identified as close contacts of COVID-19 cases, instead of the previous 150 days' threshold.

There is no change to the routine testing policy for workers who have never been infected with COVID-19.

READ: COVID-19: Battling fear and boredom, migrant workers grapple with isolation in dormitories

FOCUS EFFORTS ON WORKERS WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN INFECTED

The new approach also allows Singapore to focus its efforts on workers who have never been infected "as they are at greater risk", said the ministries.

"We will continue to review the scientific evidence, before deciding when is the appropriate juncture for these workers to be put back on the rostered routine testing regime."

To maintain vigilance, recovered workers past 90 days from the onset of illness who display symptoms suggestive of acute respiratory illness will continue to be tested for COVID-19. 

"This will allow us to detect any potential re-infections and enable swift and decisive measures to prevent further spread of COVID-19," they said.

Recovered workers with COVID-19 onset before Apr 16, will also be closely monitored, as they were among the earliest batch of workers in Singapore to have recovered from COVID-19, with their antibodies likely being the first to fade.

They will undergo monitoring tests, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology tests, at regular intervals. 

If the ministries detect that the workers' antibodies are starting to fade, or if there is evidence of re-infection of recovered workers, rostered routine testing may resume for recovered workers earlier.

"MOH and MOM will continue to review the latest scientific evidence relevant to these measures and revise our policies accordingly," said the ministries.

"It remains the shared responsibility of all stakeholders including dormitory operators, employers and workers to ensure strict compliance to Safe Living Measures, and to seek care when unwell in our fight against COVID-19."

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Source: CNA/ic

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