In order to open Singapore’s borders to international travellers as well as to get the aviation industry going, a dedicated COVID-19 testing laboratory will be set up at Changi Airport in the coming months, announced Transport Minister Ong Ke Yung on Tuesday (6 Oct).
Given that the coronavirus is set to be in our lives for some time, testing travellers is the emerging international practice where passengers will get tested before they board a plane, said Mr Ong in his ministerial statement.
“With high-sensitivity tests, we can filter out the virus at the border, better still before the traveller boards the plane, and significantly mitigate the risk of importing and spreading the virus in Singapore,” the Transport Minister said.
He added, “In other words, on a selective basis, we can open up our border, do away with border closures and SHN (stay-home notice), which is a big deterrent to travel, and replace them with tests.”
Mr Ong explained that the new laboratory is able to swab up to 10,000 travellers a day, and will act as a supplement to the existing facility at the airport.
Singapore recently rolled out a number of different measures – from reciprocal green lanes to unilaterally opening its borders – to improve the aviation industry, which has been severely hit by the pandemic.
The higher emphasis on tests for air travellers will be supported by a corresponding increase in Singapore’s COVID-19 testing capacity.
The Minister noted that testing capacity is not a major concern anymore in the country as Singapore can now tests more than 27,000 individuals daily using swab tests. This is a huge jump compared to the amount it tested back in March, where only 2,000 tests were carried out daily.
In order to increase the efforts, Singapore will also get the private sector to develop commercial testing capacity, Mr Ong said.
“At the same time, testing technology is advancing. There are promising tests with quicker turnarounds while maintaining acceptable test sensitivity,” he said.
He also went on to state that there are trials for less intrusive tests that use deep throat saliva and work to be able to generate test results on the spot. These tests, which include breathalyser tests, will be deployed “where practicable”, Mr Ong said.
If that’s not all, Mr Ong also said that COVID-19 cases in the country is now largely under control, and this will help Singapore in reopening its borders.
“This track record matters greatly to countries and regions seeking partners to restore aviation links,” said Mr Ong.
In recent weeks, the number of cases within the community remain stable at an average of one a day. Additionally, fatality rate is also one of the lowest in the world, and there is no single COVID-19 patients being admitted in the intensive care unit in the last few weeks.