Rapid testing to identify Covid-19 cases will speed up contact tracing: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE – Singapore has started carrying out rapid testing for Covid-19 and picked up seven of Sunday’s 18 unlinked cases through this method, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

The new testing strategy, along with higher virus transmission in the community, explains why more cases were reported on Sunday, he added.

The country saw a total of 49 new cases on Sunday, of which 38 were locally transmitted. Of these, 20 were linked to previous cases, while 18 were unlinked cases.

Addressing reporters at a virtual press conference, Mr Ong said antigen rapid test kits have been distributed to 236 of the 900 Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs).

To speed up detection of the virus, everyone who sees a doctor with signs of an acute respiratory infection will have to undergo one of these tests, in addition to the slower but more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

More of the rapid test kits will be distributed to the other PHPCs in the coming days, Mr Ong said.

He added that the numbers in his ministry’s daily case reports will be based on PCR test results.

Antigen rapid testing produces results in 20 minutes and can be done on-site. In contrast, PCR tests swabs have to be transferred to a laboratory, which adds to the wait of up to 48 hours for results.

The quicker turnaround time for the rapid tests mean that the Health Ministry is able to start contact tracing and ring-fencing at an earlier stage.

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