Singapore to subsidise Covid-19 healthcare costs of some outbound travellers from today

Some outbound travellers from Singapore will be able to claim medical expenses associated with Covid-19 should they develop symptoms within 14 days of their return. — TODAY pic
Some outbound travellers from Singapore will be able to claim medical expenses associated with Covid-19 should they develop symptoms within 14 days of their return. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Aug 7 — From today, some travellers heading out of Singapore will be able to tap the government’s regular healthcare financing arrangements for their inpatient medical bills, should they have Covid-19 symptoms within 14 days of their return.

This applies to travellers who are Singaporeans, permanent residents (PRs) and long-term-pass holders and who are travelling abroad under permitted travel arrangements, such as the bilateral arrangements with Malaysia and China, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

This means that Singaporeans and PRs will be eligible for government subsidies and MediShield Life integrated shield plan coverage, said Gan, while long-term-pass holders may tap their prevailing financing arrangements, such as the foreign worker insurance.

However, any remaining co-payments will continue to be borne by the patient, he added.

Speaking during the multi-ministry task force briefing yesterday, Gan said the government has chosen to review the existing healthcare financing policy as Singapore gradually allows essential travel to resume under various schemes.

Under the changes, individuals who are travelling outside of the permitted travel arrangements, or travel in breach of travel advisories, will continue to pay for their Covid-19 inpatient medical bills in full.

Short-term-pass holders entering Singapore under the permitted travel arrangements will also continue to be responsible for their medical bills should they test positive for the disease within 14 days of arrival in Singapore, said Gan.

Clarifying rationale for returning Malaysian workers' stay-home orders

Separately, the task force was asked why returning Malaysian workers with Singapore work passes entering the Republic under a periodic commuting arrangement would only serve a stay-home notice of at least seven days. The typical stay-home notice lasts 14 days.

A TODAY reader made the same point in a Voices letter on Wednesday, asking the Ministry of Health (MOH) to clarify the confusion on the incubation period of the coronavirus, which is said to stretch up to 14 days.

Responding, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, MOH’s director of medical services, said that Singapore’s original approach was to isolate people entering Singapore for 14 days, based on the maximum incubation period for the coronavirus. The Republic also tests visitors arriving into Singapore to detect asymptomatic cases.

Following several reviews, Mak noted that most visitors who were later found to be symptomatic had shown symptoms within five or six days of their entry into Singapore, while testing is needed to detect asymptomatic patients.

“That allowed us to think about considering shortening the duration of stay-home notices for countries where the original prevalence (of Covid-19) was low.

“Therefore, on the balance of risks that we assessed, the risks then of missing a traveller coming in despite a shortened stay-home notice, then manifesting with symptoms, become quite low in these countries where the prevalence is, in fact, lower than in Singapore,” he said.

He gave the assurance that the republic would continue testing visitors coming out of isolation for the coronavirus, “and the seven days for these selected travellers would not be unreasonable.”

The periodic commuting arrangement, which covers only land crossings, permits Singapore and Malaysia residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work.

Malaysian workers entering Singapore under this scheme must serve a stay-home notice of at least seven days from the day they enter Singapore and test negative for Covid-19. When the swab test results come back negative, these pass holders may start work and must remain in Singapore for at least 90 days.

Mak said that for travellers arriving from countries where Covid-19 transmissions remain high, the stay-home notices will remain at 14 days.

Malaysia has 9,038 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 125 reported deaths. Singapore’s total stands at 54,555, with 27 deaths. — TODAY

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