Retired army regular officer Clement Puah Neo took to his Facebook on Wednesday (10 June) to share an image of a graph depicting the number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed daily by the Ministry of Health (MOH) from 1 to 9 June, which showed a downturn in the number of new cases per day.
From 2 to 4 June, there were upwards of 500 new cases announced each day. However, on 5 June, there were only 261 new cases. After that, the number of new cases per day stayed below 500 at 344 new cases on 6 June, 383 on 7 June, 389 on 8 June, 218 on 9 June, and 451 on 10 June.
The image noted that the MOH had stated that the lower number of new cases per day was due to fewer swabs being conducted.
Specifically, the Ministry said in its 5 June update, “The lower number of cases today is partly due to fewer swabs being conducted.” The Ministry, however, did not provide further explanation in the update on why fewer tests were being conducted.
When a similar drop in daily cases occurred on 11 May – 486 new cases which at the time, was significantly lower than the daily reports from preceding days – the MOH noted then that the lower numbers were partly due to fewer tests being processed at the laboratory as one of the test kits was being recalibrated.
Coming back to the image shared by Mr Puah Neo yesterday, a connection was made which infers that fewer tests being conducted means fewer confirmed cases. This notion was described as “common sense”.
It went on, “From an average of about 370 new cases in the preceding 3 days, it appears that the sudden drop to 218 new cases [on 9 June] is likely due to fewer tests conducted.”
“It would do well for MOH to be transparent instead of conducting fewer tests to achieve a lower figure for confirmed cases.”
Mr Puah Neo, in his caption accompanying the image, demanded to know how many tests are being conducted each day now.
He wrote, “Can Singapore and true blue Singaporeans be told how many tests are now being done please?”
“I believe that’s a most reasonable request from a concerned Singaporean who gave 30 years of his life including all of his youth serving the nation and contributing to the well-being of Singapore!”
Taskforce has consistently emphasised that testing capacity is increasing
Interestingly, the multi ministry taskforce has repeatedly stated that Singapore is increasing its testing capacity.
On 27 April, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong remarked, “Our testing capacity for migrant workers is about 3,000 a day. We have not reduced it. Instead we have been increasing the capacity of testing of our migrant workers. The rate of testing has not slowed.”
On the same day, the MOH said in a statement, “To date, Singapore has tested about 2,100 per 100,000 persons.”
Later on 19 May, the MOH’s director of medical services Associate Professor Kenneth Mak noted in a briefing that over 281,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted so far on 191,000 unique individuals.
However, according to data collated by statistics site Our World in Data, Singapore has only conducted an average of 7.6 tests for each confirmed case since the COVID-19 outbreak started. This is compared to 18 test in Japan, 84.9 in South Korea, and 250.4 tests in New Zealand.
According to Our World in Data, Singapore’s test numbers are based on reports from the MOH on the number of people that have been tested and the number of swab tests that have been conducted, both of which the Ministry started reporting on 10 April.
The site noted that countries with very few tests per confirmed case are unlikely to be testing widely enough to find all cases.
Ultimately, Mr Puah Neo’s question pretty much stands; can the Government say how many tests are being done and how many are being processed each day?