If a person is COVID-19 positive, there is a social responsibility for them to self-report and isolate at home because if it goes unreported, more people will be infected, said Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional) at the Ministry of Health (MoH) Dr Ang Swee Hui during the ‘Revision to Testing, Diagnosis and Quarantine procedures for COVID-19 Cases and Contacts’ press conference yesterday.
Dr Ang added that other aspects of self-reporting give the MoH the ability to reach out to individuals who tested positive via antigen rapid test (ART), and those who have been put in home isolation will receive regular calls to find out their condition.
Echoing on statements previously made by Public Health Consultant and Head of Disease Control Division at the MoH Dr Justin Wong on ART testing, Consultant (Infectious Diseases) at the MoH Dr Hajah Riamiza Natalie binti Haji Momin said people may still not be confident in the ARTs to detect COVID-19.
“The ministry would not have recommended the ART as a way of diagnosing COVID-19 if we weren’t confident in it ourselves,” said Dr Hajah Riamiza Natalie, adding that ART can detect and confirm COVID-19, which is the direction the country is going towards, much like other countries.
“This is not based on conjecture, but on experience from other countries,” she said.
“Alhamdulillah, the majority of the cases that we are seeing are very mild or asymptomatic in Category 1 and Category 2, and it is because of this we are confident in going ahead with making home isolation as the default for these cases.”
Another aspect that Dr Hajah Riamiza Natalie emphasised on going towards the new normal for COVID-19 is that it is much like the normal flu, but it is also important to remember those more likely to become unwell.
“They are the ones in need of our attention, but also bear in mind that if you go into home isolation, you are not forgotten and it is important to report and get the home care packages delivered to you,” she said. “We are doing the best we can in terms of concentrating our efforts on the sicker ones, but we will not forget those at home resting and recovering.”
Explaining more on PCR testing, Dr Hajah Riamiza Natalie said the latest protocol will no longer require PCR as the use of ART has become the default in the four new protocols, while PCR will only be used in necessary cases.
“Close contacts will see the use of ART only on the first and fifth day, and if both days show negative results, they will be discharged from quarantine,” she said, adding that if symptoms begin to develop within the five days, individuals should carry out the ART, for instance, if the symptoms begin on the second day.
“One positive ART result is enough to confirm a person is COVID-19 positive if they are a close contact, and if the result is negative, continue the ART test on the fifth day,” said Dr Hajah Riamiza Natalie, highlighting that individuals who are close contacts are considered high risk of infection if they live in the same house as a primary contact.
“Chances are they will be infected, especially with the Omicron variant which is easily transmitted,” she said.
With regards to the Red BruHealth colour code for close contacts, Dr Justin explained that if a person is a close contact, they will at the moment see 14 days of quarantine displayed in their BruHealth application.
“If you report your negative results on the reporting portal, we will then verify it, then the next day you will receive a green code and freed from quarantine,” said Dr Justin. “But if, for whatever reason, you choose not to report your results, in that situation, we will isolate you for 14 days and your red code will only change back after Day 14.”
Dr Justin went on to say that on top of issues of social responsibility, the government has built in incentives such as this to ensure people do report.