Singapore will pilot antigen rapid tests that can return “fairly accurate” Covid results within 15 minutes. The move aims to reduce the risk of transmission at weddings and large-scale events as the economy opens up.
The Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong announced on Tuesday that the antigen rapid tests (ARTs) pilot runs from mid-October to December. For the duration of the pilot phase, the government will identify selected events such as business-to-business conferences, wedding receptions, live performances, and sports matches for pre-event testing, Gan added.
The antigen-based rapid detection tests which will be used for the pilot are not error-free. But the Ministry of Health (MOH) claims that the ARTs can return “fairly accurate” results within about half an hour. Up to three percent of ARTs may falsely test positive but this was an “inconvenience that had to be weighed against the need to open up society and the economy,” the ministry said.
Participants and wedding goers would either be tested at the event venue or at an offsite testing facility with a negative test certificate giving Singaporeans the ability to attend multiple events over a 24-hour period.
“If you go for a multi-day event, you would then require daily testing, with that cert being valid for 24 hours. However, if you’re attending multiple events within a 24-hour window, that same cert will gain you access to multiple events if you’re negative,” noted an MOH representative.
During the pilot phase, the ARTs will be provided free of charge to the participants. Once the project becomes mainstream, the event organizers are likely to be charged for the tests, the authorities added.
The new measures come as Singapore looks to move toward phase three of the nation’s Covid strategy by the end of 2020. The move would see restrictions on socializing lifted further, potentially allowing social gatherings for groups of up to eight people.
The city-state which had been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic has maintained tight social distancing restrictions throughout the year. On Tuesday, the MOH announced that there were no new cases in the community apart from two domestic cases that resided in dormitories and four imported cases.
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