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Vaccinations, swab tests for SAF recruits entering basic training as part of COVID-19 measures

Vaccinations, swab tests for SAF recruits entering basic training as part of COVID-19 measures

A recruit receiving a COVID-19 swab test before departing to Pulau Tekong. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: Vaccinations, testing and surveillance are among the measures put in place by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to ensure the well-being of recruits when they enlist into National Service (NS). 

As part of safe management measures, COVID-19 vaccination is being prioritised for recruits and NS pre-enlistees.

More than 90 per cent of the current Basic Military Training (BMT) batch - who enlisted on Tuesday (Jun 29) - received their first dose of the vaccine prior to enlistment, as part of an exercise held between Jun 8 and 11 at Selarang Camp. 

They are expected to receive their second dose of the vaccine between Jul 10 and Jul 16.

Two earlier batches of recruits also saw more than 90 per cent of the intake vaccinated. 

READ: SAF has achieved ‘herd immunity’ through COVID-19 vaccinations; IPPT, in-camp training resume: Ng Eng Hen

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) commander Colonel Yee Kok Meng said that while vaccination is voluntary, sessions were held to engage with pre-enlistees and their parents on their concerns. 

School commanding officers as well as medical officers are on hand during the sessions to answer questions, he said.

“This will also allay concerns from the parents of pre-enlistees,” said Colonel Yee. 

A Singapore Armed Forces enlistee hugs his dad farewell at Selarang Camp. Guests are not invited to Pulau Tekong on enlistment day due to enhanced COVID-19 measures. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
Recruits participating in the oath-taking ceremony. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

READ: 2,825 SAF recruits graduate one week earlier as part of COVID-19 measures

Vaccination remains the top priority and first line of defence against COVID-19, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a press release on Wednesday.

Currently, about 92 per cent of active MINDEF and SAF personnel have received their first dose of the vaccine, with 83 per cent already fully vaccinated, MINDEF said. 

All 92 per cent will be fully vaccinated by the second week of July, it added. 

Pre-entry swab tests and rostered routine testing have been introduced for recruits and their trainers to ensure BMT can be conducted safely, MINDEF said. 

All pre-enlistees will have to undergo a COVID-19 swab test on the day of their enlistment, with reduced seating capacity on the ferry to Pulau Tekong.  

During training, those who show symptoms of acute respiratory infection will immediately undergo swab testing and be sent home. 

Recruits at Pulau Tekong are seen wearing protective face masks during their basic military training. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

In addition, recruits must inform their commanders should they be notified that they were in close contact with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case. 

Contact tracing and ring-fencing protocols will also be activated should there be a suspected COVID-19 case. 

READ: Singapore Army completes transformation to a 3rd generation force, on track for next-gen shift

Recruits are split into cohorts, with training conducted in “small functional groups” at staggered timings with safe management measures in place and no interactions between different groups. 

Trainers who interact with different functional groups must undergo rostered routine testing. 

Meanwhile, wastewater surveillance has also been conducted in BMTC since last July to detect any possible viral fragments, with water being collected from manholes four times a week sent to a certified lab for testing.

Recruits ensure that the rifles at the individual marksmanship training center are thoroughly disinfected after they are finished. (Marcus Mark Ramos)

In addition, recruits will be placed on a “Stay Home Restriction Order” when booking out of camp, such as over the weekends. 

In place since Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) came into effect in May, the restriction order requires them to stay at home during this time and to leave their homes only for essential purposes such as buying meals. 

Commanders will call their men twice daily to check on their temperature and whereabouts. 

READ: ‘Smart’ RSAF airbases to use drones to detect intruders, more efficient munitions loader will be deployed

“Generally, we won't have any additional measures, they can go about their business, whether resting or de-stressing,” said Colonel Yee, in response to a question about whether the measure would affect recruits’ downtime in between training. 

“If they need to go out for essential trips, they just have to call or message their commander, such as if they need to go out to buy food or (perform) any essential duties they need to do,” he added.

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Source: CNA/az

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