A NEW SWAB TEST test for the COVID-19 infection has been implemented at checkpoints in Singapore.
The National Development Minister said the new swab test extends testing to lower-risk symptomatic travellers as an added precautionary measure. All land, sea and air checkpoints currently conduct temperature screening on travellers.
“We are putting this in place precisely because…we want to have a mechanism in order to detect and identify upstream early on,” said Wong.
After undergoing the swab test, travellers will be allowed to continue with their journey. Each test outcome will take three to six hours, and individuals will then be contacted on their results. Those with positive results will be conveyed to hospital via ambulance.
Wong acknowledged that the swab tests would require more manpower but stated that it was important, “not least because beyond…the known infected sources, we don’t know whether the virus may be coming in from other sources”.
Those who refuse the swab test may face sanctions. Short-term visitors who refuse the test will be barred from entry into the country. Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders who refuse testing may have their immigration facilities or work pass privileges revoked or their validity shortened.
Travellers, including Singaporeans, who do not comply with the testing or who are uncontactable later may be penalised or prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act.
SINGAPORE-based Veredus Laboratories, a provider of innovative molecular diagnostic solutions, recently announced the development of VereCoV detection kit, a portable Lab-on-Chip application capable of detecting the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) i.e. Wuhan Coronavirus, in a single test.
The VereCoV detection Kit is based on the VereChip technology, a Lab-on-Chip platform integrating two powerful molecular biological applications, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and microarray, that will be able to identify and differentiate MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and 2019-nCoV with high specificity and sensitivity.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Wuhan Coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, Central China, was initially identified during mid-December 2019. The outbreak was linked primarily to stallholders who worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also sold live animals. Chinese scientists found that the 2019-nCoV is at least 70% similar in genome sequence to SARS-CoV.
According to latest reports on the first day of the Lunar New Year (25th January), authorities have reported 15 new deaths in Wuhan, including a medical professional in his 60s, bringing the death toll in China to 41. The virus has also been detected in the US, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Nepal.
A recent article by The Business Times reported that the VereCoV detection kit was expected to be commercially available from Feb 1 this year.
ON THE RECORD
“Given the high transmission rates of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, it is inevitable that the 2019-nCoV could possibly result in high incidences of transmission. There are similarities in genetic make-up between these Coronaviruses, however gene mutations in the 2019-nCoV are largely responsible for recent outbreak cases. It is therefore critical for our multiplexing assay to provide wide genetic coverage to detect and differentiate these Coronaviruses, particularly to identify 2019- nCoV for appropriate mitigation actions, if necessary,” said Dr Sato Mitsuharu, R&D Director of Veredus in a statement.
Dr Rosemary Tan, CEO of Veredus Laboratories added, “This VereCoV detection kit will be one of the first commercially available kits in the world with the capability to detect, differentiate and identify all 3 Coronaviruses in a single test in about 2 hours. Time-to-market is crucial as it addresses the need for a fast and easy-to-use detection method. This is something we are confident of as we have previously updated our VereFlu Influenza A/B detection kit and VereMERS detection kit to include the then newly emergent pandemic strain H1N1/2009 and MERS-CoV, respectively within few weeks from time of first outbreak.”