Be responsible, get tested when sick, says Covid-19 survivor
Worries grow after some recent cases failed to see a doctor immediately despite developing symptoms
She developed a fever and after a few days of self-medicating, she thought she had beaten it.
This was back in January last year when there was still much to learn about the Covid-19 virus, which had yet to take hold across the globe.
Two weeks later, Ms Julie Ong had a dizzy spell and went to the emergency department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). She was taken immediately to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), and became case 38 on Feb 8.
Around 50 of her close contacts had to be quarantined at the time.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Ms Ong said it is critical that anyone who falls sick immediately see a doctor so that they do not infect others.
"If I had a fever, I used to take Panadol and rest at home. But now, I make sure to visit the doctor when I have a slight fever or a sore throat to get myself swabbed," said the 54-year-old, who works in human resources.
It is a message that will resonate with those who are tackling the pandemic in Singapore.
Since May 8, 14 people infected with the virus did not seek medical attention immediately despite showing symptoms, raising concerns amid a surge in cases here.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported that there were 24 community cases - the highest in the last 10 months - and a dozen active clusters.
Dr Ling Li Min, an infectious diseases physician from the Rophi Clinic, believes some people who have milder symptoms might think it is not serious enough to get a swab test.
She said: "Given the number of community cases, we need to lower our threshold for swabbing. We need to get used to the idea of getting swabbed more often than less.
"With the onset of a very mild cough, runny nose or sore throat, stay at home and monitor. If they persist or worsen over a day, go for a swab.
"See a doctor to get swabbed immediately if there is loss of taste or smell or if there is fever with cough, runny nose or sore throat."
Dr Ling said those who have been to areas identified as places visited by new Covid-19 cases and develop symptoms of any severity should also get swabbed.
If the test is negative but the symptoms persist, her advice is to repeat the swab test in three to four days.
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, cited a recent case to stress the importance of visiting a doctor even when having only minimal symptoms.
A pharmacist at TTSH developed a mild runny nose but recovered later that day, only to test positive a day later.
Dr Leong, who said seeing a doctor to get tested quickly when showing symptoms is responsible behaviour, added: "Swabbing is to prevent transmission to other people, and we are helping our neighbours, our family members and Singapore when we go for a swab test.
"We should not avoid taking the test for fear of it being too painful. With the highly experienced doctors now, it just feels like water going into the nose in the swimming pool - harmless and very bearable."
On Tuesday, Covid-19 multi-ministry task force co-chair Lawrence Wong said that Singapore is on a knife-edge and that the country's community case numbers could go either way over the next few weeks.
Dr Leong agreed.
He said: "The virus is in the community. It is targeting you and me and everyone else. Now is not the time to drop our defences, as our country is only as safe as the weakest link.
"We cannot adopt a wait-and-see approach when it comes to swabbing. If we do, the virus will spread."
Ms Ong believes some people who fall sick might not want to see a doctor because they fear they will test positive for the virus, or they think their symptoms are mild enough that they are not related to the virus.
She has been going for swab tests regularly after her recovery as part of NCID research, but she has also gone for a test on four other occasions after feeling unwell, the last time in March this year after she developed a slight sore throat. All came back negative.
She is clear as to why she has made it a habit.
"Not only am I fearful of a reinfection, I am also concerned that I may infect someone I come into contact with," said Ms Ong, who has a daughter, 26, and a 77-year-old mother.
"What if I keep quiet and someone dies?"