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Singapore

COVID-19 rostered routine testing no longer required for most workers from Feb 18

The testing regime will be streamlined to focus only on settings catering to vulnerable groups and selected essential services sectors, says the Health Ministry.

COVID-19 rostered routine testing no longer required for most workers from Feb 18
From Feb 18, 2022, COVID-19 rostered routine testing will no longer be required for most workers in Singapore, except those in the healthcare, eldercare, pre-school and selected essential services sectors. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Many of the sectors that are now required to conduct rostered routine testing for COVID-19 will no longer have to do so from Friday (Feb 18), said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday.

Only certain sectors catering to vulnerable groups and some essential service workers will need to continue with rostered routine testing.

Currently, those who need to test regularly include border frontline workers, COVID-19 frontline workers, healthcare and eldercare workers, those working with children under 12, dormitory-dwelling workers, transport workers and those in essential services as well as service industries such as retail staff.

Workers who will need to continue testing are those in healthcare, eldercare and who work with children below five. Workers in selected essential services will also need to continue testing, and they will be informed at a later date.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said at a COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce press conference that the positive rate for rostered routine testing is not high, at less than 0.2 per cent on average.

For Omicron, he noted, there is only a very short period during which a person is infectious and antigen rapid tests can pick up the infection.

"By the time you go through RRT and pick up a case, the individual most likely would have already spread (COVID-19) to other people," said Mr Ong.

"Hence, it is better that we switch to a regime where people are advised to be very vigilant and very considerate. If unwell, immediately take an ART test, make sure you're tested negative before you go out, and especially if you're meeting someone vulnerable."

Rostered routine testing was first introduced in dormitories and higher risk workplaces in August 2020, and was expanded to cover more higher-risk work settings over time.

MOH said that the routine testing regime had helped to facilitate early detection and containment of transmission in the community, but its testing strategy "needs to evolve" with the changing situation.

"The high transmissibility and shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant have also meant a reduction in the effectiveness of RRT in containing community transmission," said MOH. 

"Furthermore, we have shifted our focus towards protecting the vulnerable population and managing severe cases."

Despite the reduction in RRT, MOH urged individuals to exercise personal responsibility and conduct regular self-testing, especially prior to visiting crowded places or interacting with vulnerable groups.

Companies that have remaining test kits that were already distributed to them for RRT are "strongly encouraged" to continue testing until the test kits are fully utilised.

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Source: CNA/hm(ac)

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