Since 1 July, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that all patients with acute respiratory infection aged 13 and above would be offered a COVID-19 test.

However, it was reported by the Straits Times that a quarter of the patients aged 13 and above who were diagnosed with an acute respiratory infection from 1 July to 16 August declined COVID-19 swab test.

Some of the patients who declined to receive a swab test expressed their fear of discomfort.

The MOH told the Straits Times that the patients who declined the swab test are given a five-day medical certificate which would legally require them to stay home.

The patients who are assessed to meet the suspect case definition of COVID-19, or have prolonged acute respiratory infection at the end of their five-day medical leave, will be legally required to undergo a swab test.

The Ministry pointed out that some patients were concerned about the feeling of being swabbed, therefore promising that they would work with the healthcare providers to make better explanations to the patients.

“We will continue to work with healthcare providers to explain to patients that the swab is quick and causes only slight discomfort.”

It was revealed that nose and throat swabs are being utilised due to the fact that higher volumes of tests can be efficiently processed daily. The Ministry explained that pooled testing made high volume processing possible.

While saliva testing may be more comfortable than swabbing, pooled testing is still being developed.

Considering one in four patients with acute respiratory infection would decline going for a COVID-19 swab test, the MOH urged the people with mild symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and loss of smell to consult a doctor immediately.

These patients were also advised to take a swab test when their doctors tell them to do so.

The Ministry stressed the importance of testing for COVID-19 early because early detection would allow early containment to prevent spreading of the infection.

“It is important to test for Covid-19 early for early disease management, because in some patients the disease becomes more severe in the second week. Early diagnosis also allows for early detection and containment to prevent further spread, to help protect loved ones and vulnerable members of the community from getting infected.”

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