Coronavirus: S'pore can consider further opening up from June 1, to ramp up virus testing capacity from 8,000 to 40,000 a day

SINGAPORE – Singapore can consider further easing strict circuit breaker measures if the coronavirus situation improves by June 1, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday (May 4).

For this to happen, community cases would have to remain low or drop further, while cases in migrant worker dormitories would need to come “clearly under control”.

The country will also need to drastically ramp up its capacity to test for the virus before the economy can restart, he said, adding that there are plans to increase testing capacity to 40,000 tests a day, up from the current 8,000 now.

In his ministerial statement, Mr Gan listed three factors that the Government will consider before lifting circuit breaker measures.

First, community transmission must be stopped or be very low. Cases among migrant workers in dormitories must also be reduced, or the country will risk a spillover from this group into the wider population, he said.

The Government will also assess the global situation, as well as that in individual countries to see the rate of transmissions and what they have done to contain the spread of Covid-19.

“For any reopening of our borders, we are likely to start small and selectively, and to continue to impose a mix of isolation and test requirements, to protect ourselves from new imported cases leading to community spread,” Mr Gan said.

Singapore must also put in place a system to allow it to reopen safely. Part of this involves ramping up testing capacity, as well as improving the country’s contact tracing capacity.

The country has 50 contact tracing teams now, up from 20 in March. But this capacity will have to be scaled up quickly if there are more cases or large clusters, or to discover less obvious links, Mr Gan said.

He added that the country will need to leverage technology, as doing so manually will be very difficult.

But even as Singapore reopens in a “phased and calibrated manner”, there will likely still be cases of infection in the community as the virus is very difficult to eradicate, the minister said.

“What is key is to keep the number of cases small and reduce the risk of big clusters, through various safeguards and enablers. It will take a while before the Covid-19 outbreak subsides globally, or before a vaccine is ready. Thus we will have to adapt to a new way of life and social interactions.”

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