S'pore govt trialing pre-event Covid-19 testing to allow more people to attend 'higher-risk' activities: Gan Kim Yong

Frequency at which the activity takes place and potential risk factors inherent to the nature of the event are among considerations the government takes when determining capacity limits of events.

Darryl Laiu | November 04, 2020, 04:21 PM

The government takes into account several factors when determining capacity limits for events and social activities in Phase 3, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament today (Nov. 4)

These factors include frequency at which the activity takes place, potential risk factors inherent to the nature of the event, and whether additional measures can be taken to mitigate these risks.

Gan was responding to a parliamentary question from Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui, who wanted to know how the government decides on capacity limits for gatherings, weddings and other events, how it ensures compliance as more activities resume on a larger scale, and the plans in place to tackle a spike in Covid-19 cases in Phase 3.

Gan added that the government's analysis of how Covid-19 transmissions take place suggested that the probability of transmission tends to be higher in social settings — like the super-spreader dinners at Jurong SAFRA and a Mei Hwan Drive condominium which happened earlier this year.

More measures to allow more interactions

Gan said that there have been pleas to raise the limit on number of wedding participants to beyond 100.

Currently, weddings attended by between 50 and 100 guests have to separate its attendees into zones of 50.

Guests at these events are already not supposed to mingle beyond their groups of five at a table and they must use SafeEntry and TraceTogether.

Gan also said that the government is piloting the use of pre-event testing to allow more people to attend higher-risk activities. These tests will use antigen rapid tests, which can return fairly accurate results quickly.

However, Gan emphasised that these tests are not as accurate as the Polymerase Chain Reaction tests, and hence cannot completely eliminate the probability that a Covid-19-positive case might still be present.

The minister also said that another key enabler for more interactions is a strengthened contact tracing capability. This can be achieved as more people start to use the TraceTogether app or token.

Phase 3 not a return to normal

Gan said that the objective of Phase 3 is to reach a steady state of permitted economic and social activities until an effective vaccine or treatment is widely available.

"We must not let our guard down and become lax in adherence to safe management measures, as doing so could result in a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, putting all our sacrifices thus far to waste," added Gan.

"Should there be a spike in cases, we need to respond swiftly and decisively. We cannot rule out the need to re-impose measures or introduce new measures in order to keep the virus under control."

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