Parliament: Tests of patients in polyclinics, clinics show low prevalence of Covid-19 in community

SINGAPORE – From July to mid-August, only 0.03 per cent of patients aged 13 and up who were tested for Covid-19 after being diagnosed with acute respiratory infection at clinics, tested positive.

This “small percentage” of patients at polyclinics and Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPC) indicates that the prevalence of Covid-19 in the community is low, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday (Sept 4).

Since July, patients aged 13 and above who show up at polyclinics and PHPCs with signs of acute respiratory infection (ARI) have been tested for the coronavirus, as part of measures to stem the Covid-19 spread here.

Mr Gan said in a written reply that early testing of all individuals diagnosed with ARI allows his ministry to quickly detect infected individuals and contain further spread. He noted that scientific evidence shows an infected person is most infectious right before and immediately after the start of symptoms.

He added that the Ministry of Health (MOH) continues to encourage all individuals who are unwell to seek medical attention immediately and follow medical advice.

Besides ARI patients, the ministry also tests other groups that are more vulnerable or have a higher risk of exposure, as part of its strategy.

These include workers in dormitories, those in the construction, marine and process sectors and workers supporting front-line Covid-19 operations.

Mr Gan said that currently, more than 200,000 such individuals are tested every two weeks.

In the last two-week cycle, about 200 of such individuals tested positive for Covid-19, he said, adding that a majority of these cases are likely to be from past infections.

On the turnaround time of Covid-19 test results, Mr Gan said the current mean time from when a patient is swabbed till the laboratories make test results available is 30 hours. The median time is 22 hours.

“Agencies and private providers supporting the testing operations endeavour to turn around the test results as soon as possible,” he said, adding that confirmed cases will be quickly notified for the “necessary public health actions to be taken”.

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