Covid-19: More than 39,000 tests done in Singapore

Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) scientists demonstrate the test process of their coronavirus test kit at their laboratory in Singapore, March 5, 2020. — Reuters pic
Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) scientists demonstrate the test process of their coronavirus test kit at their laboratory in Singapore, March 5, 2020. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, March 25 — To date, Singapore has conducted around 39,000 tests for COVID-19, said the republic’s Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong today.

“This translates to about 6,800 tests per million people in Singapore, compared with around 6,500 in South Korea, and about 1,000 in Taiwan,” he said in his ministerial statement in Parliament today on COVID-19 update.

Singapore has so far have 558 confirmed cases, of which two have passed away, 155 have been discharged, while most of the rest are stable or improving.

On research efforts, Gan said Singapore is developing research and knowledge on COVID-19 and is sharing these with other countries.

An innovative rapid test kit being developed by Singapore A*STAR’s researchers, he said, would go to trial soon, giving the country additional weaponry against COVID-19.

For treatment, Gan said a COVID-19 therapeutic workgroup comprising members from the various hospitals across different disciplines as well as Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has been set up to work on guidelines for repurposed drugs with antiviral activity such as Lopinavir-ritonavir, Interferon Beta-1B and hydroxychloroquine – to treat infected patients in Singapore.

Gan said the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), together with the Singapore Blood Blank, have initiated a donor recruitment to collect convalescent blood plasma from recovered patients to treat other COVID-19 patients.

“Our doctors have also been participating in international clinical trials, with collaborators such as the US National Institute of Health,” he said.

For vaccines, Gan said Duke-NUS Medical School is working with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and international partners to develop a clinical trial for a vaccine, with plans to start testing sometime this year.

Duke-NUS Medical School is a collaboration between Duke University and the National University of Singapore.

WHO estimates that the earliest a vaccine will be ready would likely be sometime next year.

According to Gan, from late-January to February, Singapore saw an initial wave of imported cases from China.

“However, in recent weeks, we are seeing a second wave of imported cases. In the past week alone, the number of cases in Singapore more than doubled, from 266 to 558 cases.

“Almost 80 per cent of these new cases were imported, all from countries other than China even though we continued to see around 1,000 residents and long-term pass holders returning from China in the past week,” he said.

The top three sources of importation cases to Singapore are the UK, US, and Indonesia, he said.

“And over the coming weeks, the number of cases will continue to rise, as around 200,000 overseas Singaporeans will be returning home from all over the world,” said Gan.

Gan noted that Singapore have slowed the local spread thus far through a three-pronged approach: first, reducing importation; second, detecting and isolating cases early; and third, emphasising social responsibility and good personal hygiene habits. — Bernama

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