Singapore plans to roll out rapid COVID-19 tests for events such as weddings and business conferences as the city-state looks to further reopen its economy, its health ministry said on Tuesday. Governments around the world are turning to so-called antigen tests that can deliver results in minutes but are less accurate than the standard molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which have suffered shortages in some places and outstripped manufacturers’ production capacity.
Singapore had one of the highest coronavirus caseloads in Asia earlier this year due to outbreaks in crowded migrant worker dormitories but in recent weeks has seen daily infections fall dramatically to the low single digits. The health ministry said it will from now until the end of the year identify events that will require rapid tests for entry, adding they will likely include business or sports events, wedding receptions and live performances.
Currently, up to 100 people are permitted to attend weddings and religious events. Up to 3% of individuals may falsely test positive using the antigen tests, the ministry said, adding that this “inconvenience has to be weighed against the need to open up society and the economy”. Singapore currently has tight social distancing restrictions limiting groups to five people in public. Authorities said on Tuesday they hope to raise this to eight in the coming weeks if cases stay low.
Singapore also said it plans to make the use of its contact-tracing app and physical token compulsory to enter many venues in coming months, as it looks to expand use of a technology that has stoked some privacy worries. The city-state has sought to allay such fears by stressing its bluetooth-powered devices store data locally for no more than 25 days and do not have internet or cellular connectivity.