SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (Aug 3) acknowledged criticism of its COVID-19 quarantine operations, and apologised over delays and lapses in communication with those under quarantine.
A surge in the number of people under quarantine led to operations staff handling an increased workload and delays in conveyance to government isolation facilities, the ministry said in a Facebook post.
Most of the backlog has since been cleared and the situation "should settle down", it added.
Last week, a total of 14,770 quarantine orders were issued, or an average of 2,110 a day, according to MOH data.
As of Monday, about 20,000 people in Singapore were under quarantine.
Here is what you need to know if you have been issued a quarantine order.
Q: WHAT IS A QUARANTINE ORDER? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM A LEAVE OF ABSENCE AND A STAY-HOME NOTICE?
A: A quarantine order is issued to individuals who have, or are suspected to have, COVID-19. It is also served to contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Those under a quarantine order may not leave their quarantine location for any reason. Should they have urgent matters to personally attend to that they cannot postpone, they will have to seek permission from the Quarantine Order Agent.
According to MOH’s website, the quarantine order is a legal order under the Infectious Diseases Act and there will be severe penalties for any non-compliance.
A leave of absence is issued by public agencies as a precautionary measure. Individuals who receive a leave of absence should remain in their residences as much as possible and minimise social contact, but they may leave the house for daily necessities or important matters.
A stay-home notice is given to all travellers who enter Singapore. They are not allowed to leave their place of residence or dedicated facility for the period of their notice.
READ: Household members of people under COVID-19 quarantine now required to self-isolate at home: MOH
Q: WHERE DO I SERVE MY QUARANTINE ORDER?
A: Quarantine orders can be served at a dedicated facility or at home.
“MOH will establish if a QO (quarantine order) should be served out in the home, dedicated government quarantine facilities (GQFs) or hospitals, based on assessment of a person's contact history, state of health and the suitability of the home,” the ministry said on its website.
If a person receives a quarantine order and their household members have not, they will have to serve their quarantine at a government facility.
However, exceptions can be made for those who are fully vaccinated and are able to self isolate at home, as well as those who are under 19 years old or require a caregiver.
Individuals who serve their quarantine at home have to make sure that they have no medically vulnerable family members staying with them and that they are able to isolate themselves alone in a bedroom with an attached toilet and shower.
Household members will also have to take the antigen rapid test (ART) on days three, five, seven and 14 of the quarantine period. The person under quarantine will do the same, with additional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at the beginning and near the end of their quarantine period.
If an entire household receives a quarantine order, they will serve their quarantine order at home, should the premises be deemed suitable.
Q: WHAT IF I AM FULLY VACCINATED?
A: Fully vaccinated individuals may serve their quarantine at home, provided they fulfil MOH’s conditions.
They will have to perform a self-administered ART test and receive a negative test result, and take a mandatory PCR test one day after the ART test. The PCR test has to be taken one to two days before the end of quarantine and be negative.
MOH will bear the cost of all tests in a home quarantine order.
Q: HOW WILL I BE MONITORED AT HOME?
A: Those quarantined at home will be monitored at least three times daily by video calls or the HOMER app. They will have to wear a wristband tag that keeps track of their movements.
MOH will carry out spot checks and those found to be non-compliant could be directed to wear an electronic tag or be detained and isolated in a hospital or any other suitable place.
Q: WHEN/HOW WILL MY QUARANTINE END?
A: Your quarantine order will be rescinded at 12pm on the last day of your quarantine or upon receiving a negative result for your PCR exit test, whichever is later. The rescindment will be notified to you through SMS.
This means that if you are under home quarantine, you cannot leave your house until you have received a negative PCR test result.
According to MOH, swab test results will be sent within one to two days via SMS. If you have a SingPass account, you may log in to the HealthHub page to access the results.
READ: More COVID-19 cases who are vaccinated may not need to be hospitalised as Singapore adjusts healthcare protocols
Q: WHAT HAPPENS TO MY FAMILY IF I QUARANTINE AT HOME?
A: Those living in the same house as a person under quarantine will have to sign a Letter of Undertaking or a Stay Order and will not be allowed to leave the house.
If they do not sign the document, they may not live in the same house as the person under quarantine.
Q: DO I HAVE TO USE MY MEDICAL OR HOSPITALISATION LEAVE TO SERVE A QUARANTINE ORDER?
A: Employees serving a quarantine order will be considered on paid sick leave. Their absence from work will be counted under the paid hospitalisation leave offered to them in their employment contracts.
Q: WHAT IS THE QUARANTINE ORDER ALLOWANCE?
A: The Quarantine Order Allowance Scheme allows self-employed persons and Singapore-registered companies that have employees under quarantine order to claim S$100 a day.
It is meant to cushion the financial impact for those serving their quarantine orders.
Approved caregivers of a person under quarantine can also apply for the allowance, subject to the same eligibility requirements.
S Pass or work permit holders, as well as foreign domestic workers, are not eligible for this scheme.