Clinics count on bigger demand for COVID-19 tests as Singapore resumes additional activities

SINGAPORE: Healthcare companies and general practitioner clinics are gearing up for an expected rise in desire for COVID-19 screening as Singapore resumes a lot more things to do, with Section 3 of the country’s reopening set to start on Dec 28.  

Fullerton Health and fitness, which provides COVID-19 tests at seven of its clinics as well as for situations like concert events and mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions, mentioned it expects much more requests for testing at events and for folks returning to the place of work. 

“We foresee much more need coming from the private sector intending to investigate tests for their workers for situations like return-to-function, conferences and key conferences,” stated Dr Faizal Kassim, health care director of Fullerton Health’s key care division.

“Our big purchasers in both equally the transportation and semi-conductor industries have expressed curiosity to operate with us to have some kind of plan, asymptomatic screening for their staff members for many scenarios,” he included.

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Now, pilots are getting executed for sports activities occasions, performances and MICE meetings of up to a few hundred individuals, exactly where members have to go through checks. Nightclubs and KTVs are also thanks to start a pilot up coming month where patrons would have to choose assessments ahead of a night time out or to sing karaoke.

These are normally Antigen Swift Checks (Art), which are considerably less invasive than Polymerase Chain Response (PCR) assessments. The outcomes are also offered far more speedily, in 15 to 30 minutes, though PCR checks have to have the deep nasal swab sample to be despatched to a laboratory and the results are generally identified in 24 to 48 several hours.


Though doctors anticipate a increase in demand for coronavirus tests, clinics CNA checked with stated there has been no enhance in people today inquiring for voluntary testing given that Dec 1. That’s when the authorities did absent with the need to have to seek out approval for COVID-19 testing. 

ART rapid antigen test COVID-19

Executing a Swift Antigen Exam. (Photograph: Raffles Health care Group)

Dr John Cheng, head of major treatment at Healthway Clinical Team, explained that about 30 for every cent of all PCR swab tests done at its clinics are for travel, though 70 per cent are individuals who have COVID-19 signs or symptoms these kinds of as fever and cough.

This has not modified following voluntary testing started out, he said, adding that people may possibly occur forward only when there are less invasive forms of screening. The Healthway team has 38 clinics that offer testing. 

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“We have not noticed any individuals who do not tumble in the over two groups coming in for voluntary swab checks. This is not stunning as I believe that lots of are waiting around for considerably less invasive methods of tests before thinking about using 1,” claimed Dr Cheng.

“At this level in time, except an particular person is unwell, there remains little incentive for them to fork out for a voluntary swab examination.”

PCR exams cost about S$200 presently, though most Artwork assessments array from S$50 to S$80, according to a checklist of check vendors revealed by the Ministry of Wellbeing (MOH). 

“However, we do hope to see some men and women requesting these assessments in the coming months as we prepare for Period 3 in Singapore’s reopening, which will see the resumption of financial and group functions on a broader scale, as very well as organization and leisure vacation,” Dr Cheng mentioned. 

He extra that Healthway is doing the job with its partners to anticipate a surge in demand for ART assessments, especially for pre-occasion screening needs.

COVID-19 testing Fullerton Health people waiting

Individuals waiting to just take COVID-19 checks. (Photograph: Fullerton Wellbeing)

Mr Yong Yih Ming, typical manager of Raffles Health-related Group, claimed that it is also ramping up tests potential to aid Singapore’s further reopening. It has released a Raffles Link app for customers to book test appointments, make payment and obtain PCR examination effects. 

“In anticipation of projected boost in check desire, we have also concurrently invested in greater laboratory capacities that will see us ramp up everyday screening capability to among 8,000 and 10,000 checks,” he explained.

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Fullerton’s Dr Faizal reported its clinics are looking at more demand for the Artwork tests, when there is a compact percentage taking serology assessments catered to certain journey routes. Mainland China, for instance, needs travellers to just take a serology check prior to their flight.

A serology test detects antibodies employing a blood sample. It is not a indicates of analysis for COVID-19 but seems to be for earlier exposure or infections.

Styles OF Assessments

Describing the distinctions in between PCR and Artwork tests, Dr Cheng said that PCR tests are presently the “operational gold standard” in medical exercise, as they are really sensitive and really distinct.

Substantial sensitivity usually means that they can detect even low stages of viral genetic material inside a patient’s sample, and have a reduce possibility of false negatives. A take a look at with higher specificity would avoid bogus-good outcomes – that is, diagnosing those without having the virus as constructive.

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“This examination is also ready to detect the virus within just times of infection, even these who are asymptomatic,” he mentioned.

“The current turnaround time for PCR checks vary from 24 hours to two to 3 times. Aside from the preliminary short term soreness and discomfort from the nasal swab, the PCR exam has minor to no aspect consequences.”

PCR checks detect virus genetic substance which has been amplified working with the polymerase chain response, even though Art tests are ready to detect a single or extra specific proteins from the COVID-19 virus particle.

Artwork checks supply results in fewer than an hour, which is perfect for pre-function tests, Dr Cheng stated.

“However, (Art assessments) tend to be significantly less delicate, so PCR tests will remain the definitive process when testing for COVID-19,” he claimed.

PCR checks can also use deep saliva as samples but only a single this sort of take a look at has been a short while ago authorised for use in Singapore by the Health and fitness Sciences Authority.

WHEN TO Examination?

The recent for a longer time turnaround time for PCR checks tends to make them unsuitable for conditions exactly where a swift outcome is demanded. 

The actual “machine” or take a look at time for RT-PCR tests is inside four hrs, but it takes time to transport the specimens to a laboratory, system the sample and examination them in batches.

“There is at present a tradeoff in phrases of time, cost and sensitivity. For exams where by the effects are needed inside of an hour, this sort of as proper right before an party, then immediate antigen checks will will need to be performed by default,” said Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, vice dean of global wellbeing at the Nationwide College of Singapore’s (NUS) Saw Swee Hock College of General public Health and fitness.

But this could alter. There are PCR checks, nevertheless to be commercialised, that can generate benefits in underneath 10 minutes, claimed Assoc Prof Hsu.

If a member of the public wants to get tested to make confident they are not infected, they can get a PCR exam at a private clinic, said infectious illnesses qualified Professor Paul Tambyah.

“For every an infection, we often have the ‘worried well’ … That demonstrates guilt and panic a good deal much more than true hazard of illness. The vital is that the assessments are now obtainable and folks who want them will get them in public health care clinics although individuals who are just anxious can shell out for the reassurance,” said the president of the Asia Pacific Culture of Scientific Microbiology and An infection.

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But Assoc Prof Hsu mentioned he discourages individuals who are effectively from getting examined for COVID-19.

“The assessments include a specific sum of expense and discomfort (for assessments where swabs are needed), and whilst bogus-good assessments are uncommon, there is appreciable inconvenience to several if they manifest, as in the recent cruise ship situation,” he stated.


Prof Tambyah included that the dilemma of what check to use may well grow to be fewer related with vaccination.

“I assume eventually, tests prior to flights or functions will disappear when vaccination is much more common or the illness disappears many thanks to world vaccination attempts,” he said.

There will, even so, carry on to be significant screening accomplished subsequent calendar year as Singapore is not likely to get sufficient doses of the vaccine to address the populace in this article right until the second fifty percent of the yr, Assoc Prof Hsu claimed.

Later on, it is probably that some kind of method – most likely an application that verifies if a person has been vaccinated – will enable those people who have been vaccinated to be exempted from testing, he prompt. 

“That would make the most sense due to the fact tests also includes substantial costs. If the the greater part of the population are vaccinated, maybe it may perhaps be feasible to do absent with screening apart from in scientific eventualities when a human being is unwell,” he explained.

COVID-19 exam companies in Singapore can be observed on MOH’s internet site.

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