SINGAPORE: Local COVID-19 infection numbers have swelled in recent weeks, with cases growing “faster than expected”, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung last Friday (Sep 17).
Authorities continue to emphasise the importance of testing extensively – and are urging people to self-test regularly as a matter of “social responsibility”.
To that end, such do-it-yourself antigen rapid test (ART) kits have been distributed to households and students. Vending machines have also been set up islandwide to dispense the test kits to those who receive health risk warnings or alerts.
Here are some guidelines from the Ministry of Health (MOH), as of Sep 22, on what you should do if you display symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive on an ART.
Q: I have COVID-19 symptoms. What should I do?
Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to acute respiratory infection symptoms – such as fever, cough, runny nose or loss of taste or smell.
If you have any such symptoms, skip the self-test.
Instead, consult a general practitioner at a Swab and Send Home (SASH) clinic, says MOH. You can find a list of these clinics here.
If you have mild symptoms, you should also avoid seeking treatment at a hospital, added the ministry.
Going to a SASH doctor – who can assess the severity of one's symptoms and perform COVID-19 tests – will help preserve hospital capacity “for those who truly need hospital care”, it said.
You can also check your symptoms on this site developed by healthcare institutions.
Q: Should I use a self-test kit even if I don’t have any symptoms?
You can use the ART even if you are well, as a person could be infected even if he has no symptoms, says MOH.
Testing will provide certainty, especially if you have come into contact with an active cluster, it said.
People are encouraged to self-test regularly, including those who are fully vaccinated, especially if they are taking part in large-scale events.
Q: Is frequent ART swabbing harmful to me?
Frequent swabbing has not been proven to be harmful, says MOH.
ART swabs are inserted at around 2cm into the nostril, which are shallower and less intrusive than the nasopharyngeal swabs taken for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
However, if you have had recent facial surgery or frequent nose bleeds, you are advised to visit a licensed ART provider to have a professional perform the test for you.
Q: I’ve tested positive on a self-test kit. Now what?
If your ART shows a positive result but you are asymptomatic, you should:
1. Stop going to work, cancel your social activities
This is to protect others from possibly being infected with COVID-19.
2. Do not rush to a hospital to get tested
Doing so may expose you to more risk because there may be other infected people there, said MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak last Friday.
If you are concerned about the ART test result, visit a nearby SASH clinic. The doctor will assess you and decide if a PCR test is needed.
3. Self-isolate for at least 72 hours
You are encouraged to stay at home and self-isolate for at least 72 hours. This will allow you to safely recover, monitor your health and avoid spreading the virus further.
If you start to feel unwell during isolation, visit a GP as soon as possible to be assessed. The doctor will decide if a PCR test is needed and will also advise on your next steps.
4. At the end of the 72 hours, do another ART test
If the result is negative, you can have “peace of mind” knowing you have recovered, said Assoc Prof Mak.
You can then “progressively” resume your normal activities, he said.
5. If your test result is still positive after the period of self-isolation, consult a GP
Take a photo of your ART test result next to your identification card.
Have this photo and your identification card with you when you go to the doctor.
6. If you are then given a PCR test, self-isolate while waiting
You should head home via private transport and self-isolate while awaiting the results of your PCR test. Keep your mask on.
Your doctor will inform you of your results generally within 24 to 48 hours, according to MOH. You may also check your results via HealthHub.
Q: If my PCR test is positive, what happens next?
Continue to self-isolate in a well-ventilated room. Do not have contact with your household members.
MOH will contact you on the next course of action.
Home recovery is the default care management model for those who fulfil these criteria:
- Fully vaccinated
- Aged 12 to 69 years old
- No or mild symptoms
- No severe comorbidities or illness
- Household members do not include elderly who are more than 80 years old or people in the vulnerable group such as pregnant women or those with weakened immune response or multiple comorbidities
- Able to self-isolate in a room, preferably with an attached bathroom.
You can expect to receive an SMS within 24 hours, with a link to provide your details, to start your home recovery.
If you're unsuitable for home recovery, MOH will make the arrangements for you to recover at a community care facility or hospital.