The Health Ministry (MOH) said that travellers coming from India must produce COVID-19 test results from recognised labs which are “internationally accredited or recognised by the Indian Government”.
The tests must also be conducted within 72 hours before the departure date. Those without the required valid documents will not be allowed to enter Singapore.
Additionally, starting from today (23 Sep), all travellers with a recent travel history to India within the last 14 days will have to take a serology test. The test detects the presence of antibodies indicating that the person might have been infected with COVID-19.
Those who test positive will be exempted from taking the polymerase chain reaction swab test – which detects the presence of viral genetic material – before the end of their 14-day stay-home notice (SHN) period.
Fake COVID-19 certificates appearing in India
The latest directive to produce valid pre-departure test results from recognised labs comes as fake COVID-19 certificates certifying that a person is coronavirus free have started to appear in India (‘Indian Fake COVID-19 certificates appearing in India‘).
However, producing test results or certificates from recognised Indian labs does not necessary mean the person is COVID-19 free. Earlier this month (4 Sep), a Delhi-based doctor, Dr Kush Parashar, and his aide were arrested for issuing fake COVID-19 certificates.
After collecting swab samples from suspected COVID-19 patients or people seeking the COVID-19 tests for employment or travel reasons, the doctor would discard their samples and issue them fake test results in the names of at least three diagnostic laboratories, certifying that they are coronavirus free.
The doctor and his aide have issued at least 75 of such fake COVID-19 certificates, charging people who came for the test Rs2,400 (S$44) each.
“Their cover was blown, when one of the recipients of the test results found a mismatch in his name and contacted the diagnostic centre to learn that the latter didn’t issue any such result,” Delhi Police told the media.
India’s COVID-19 pandemic bigger than reported
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India has surpassed 5 million with more than 80,000 deaths, according to official figures. It is the second-highest in the world after the US currently.
Infection is surging through India in a “step-ladder spiral”, an Indian government scientist told BBC.
The speed at which the virus is spreading is worrying experts. It took 170 days for India to reach the first million cases but the last million cases took only 11 days. Average daily cases have shot up from 62 in April to more than 87,000 in September. Presently, there are more then 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths in India everyday.
Epidemiologists told BBC that India’s real infection rates are probably far higher. Dr Bhramar Mukherjee from the University of Michigan estimated that there would be about 100 million infections in India now. This is 20 times the number of the official 5 million figure.
“I think India has taken a path of cruising towards herd immunity. I am not sure whether everyone is following preventive measures like wearing masks and keeping social distancing seriously,” she told BBC. “This could be due to habituation, desensitization [to the disease], fatigue, denial, fatalism or a combination of both. It feels like a thousand deaths a day have become normal.”
Experts blamed the Indian government for mismanaging the lockdown it had imposed earlier. “It failed because it did exactly what a lockdown should not do,” says Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank. “It caused a mass movement of people walking all over the nation, trying to reach home, because they had no choice. As a result, India’s economy got damaged and the virus continued to spread.”
But even as infections soar, the Modi government has proceeded to open up – workplaces, public transport, eateries, gyms – to try and repair its battered economy. This could only mean more COVID-19 infections are to be expected in India.
MOH says to take actions against those using fake COVID-19 certificates
With the number of COVID-19 cases exploding in India, the Singapore government continues to allow travellers from India to enter Singapore.
Over the 5 days from last Thursday to Monday, two-thirds of Singapore’s imported cases have been reported to have come from India.
“Travellers found without the required valid documents will be refused entry into Singapore. We will not hesitate to take action against those who present forged documents to seek entry into Singapore, including barring them from entry to Singapore in the future,” warned MOH.
Additionally, the travellers will serve a two-week SHN period at dedicated SHN facilities and be further tested before the end of the SHN period.