Singapore

Covid-19 test protocols for those with special needs to be reviewed

Move comes after negative feedback from family members of people with disabilities

Covid-19 testing procedures and quarantine processes will be reviewed and improved to make them more inclusive of people with special needs.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam said the Ministry of Health (MOH) will look into engaging relevant professionals as well as volunteers from the National Council of Social Service who are trained to work with people with special needs to administer swab tests.

It will also study the effectiveness of alternative tests and improve communication among the various agencies involved for a smoother process in managing quarantine orders.

The announcements came after two accounts by caregivers on Facebook in the last few days drew thousands of reactions and sparked calls for the authorities to do more to help people with disabilities through Covid-19 protocols.

On Monday, special education teacher Amilia Koh, 26, posted on Facebook about how she was dismayed and frustrated when she was barred from going with her intellectually disabled brother to the government quarantine facility despite her prior request to be listed as an accompanying caregiver.

Her brother, 34, had to be quarantined after attending a session last month at MINDSville@Napiri, where an active Covid-19 cluster had been detected.

In Ms Koh's post, which has been shared more than 1,700 times, she said her brother was "on the brink of an aggressive meltdown" during his nasal swab test last Friday as he was surrounded by many unfamiliar masked faces.

She said she was allowed to step in and help calm him only after 30 minutes.

A day before Ms Koh's post, Ms Cindy Chee posted about how her son, Matthew, 18, who is autistic, was traumatised by a swab test he had to undergo as their housing estate was deemed a Covid-19 cluster.

Ms Chee, 45, attached photographs of a journal entry written by Matthew, a student of Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School, on the same day after the swab attempt, where he wrote that he hoped to be "set free from the dangerous white head people who put (a) stick in my nose".

Yesterday, Ms Koh told The New Paper she was grateful and heartened that her feedback had been acknowledged, and that she was hopeful for smoother processes in the future.

"This gives families of special-needs individuals a sense of relief and assurance, to know that the good fight we put up against the virus will not harm our loved ones or further put front-liners at unnecessary risk," she said.

Ms Alina Chua, principal autism consultant and psychologist at the Autism Resource Centre (Singapore), said she was glad to hear of MOH's proposed measures.

She said: "Feedback from caregivers and persons with special needs who are able to provide inputs are valuable sources of information, as their knowledge and experiences are most relevant and useful in understanding what works well.

"In all that we do for the community, we believe that it takes a village. We hope that everyone can work together to support persons with special needs, especially in these unsettling times."

coronavirus