COVID-19-Related Isolation Measures in Singapore

man wearing a mask looking outside the window

As COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease, isolation measures are crucial to curb its spread in a densely populated country like Singapore.

The government has therefore implemented 3 COVID-19-related isolation protocols to follow depending on whether:

  1. You are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (Protocol 1)
  2. You have a positive COVID-19 result but are not experiencing symptoms (Protocol 2)
  3. You have merely been exposed to a COVID-19 case (Protocol 3)

Separately, individuals entering Singapore from abroad may be required to serve a Stay-Home Notice (SHN).

This article will explain to you under which circumstances you should follow Protocols 1, 2 and/or 3, or will be required to serve an SHN, and your legal obligations under each of these (a summary table is available below).

It will also briefly share the penalties for non-compliance, as well as some previous isolation measures that you may have heard of, but are now defunct.

What to Do If You Have Symptoms of COVID-19 (Protocol 1) 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, sore throat, and breathlessness, you must follow Protocol 1.

Protocol 1 requires you to visit a Swab And Send Home (SASH) clinic by private transport to undergo assessment by a doctor on whether you need to take a COVID-19 swab test. You may find the nearest SASH clinic near you at this government website.

If the doctor directs you to take a COVID-19 swab test, you are required to take the test, then immediately return home and self-isolate in a room (preferably with an attached bathroom) until you receive your result.

If your COVID-19 test result is negative, you may resume normal activities. However, if your COVID-19 test result is positive, you will receive an Isolation Order via SMS within 48 hours.

Should you be issued an Isolation Order, Ministry of Health representatives will call you to ask you questions about your domestic situation and determine if you are suitable for the Home Recovery Programme. If you are placed in the Home Recovery Programme, you must continue to self-isolate at home for:

  • 10 days if you are fully vaccinated or aged 12 years and below; or
  • 14 days if you are partially vaccinated or are an unvaccinated person above 12 years old

If your home environment renders you unsuitable for the Home Recovery Programme, arrangements will be made for you to continue your isolation at a community isolation facility.

If you require medical assistance, you should contact a telemedicine doctor or the doctor who conducted your COVID-19 test if they are participating in the Home Recovery Programme. Arrangements will then be made to transfer you to a hospital if your symptoms are severe.

On the day of discharge (either day 10 or day 14 at 12pm), you will receive a discharge memo via SMS. You should minimise social activities for 7 days thereafter.

For more information on the Home Recovery Programme, do visit the Ministry of Health website.

What to Do If You Do Not Have Symptoms of COVID-19 but Have Tested Positive (Protocol 2)

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 but feel physically well, you must follow Protocol 2.

Protocol 2 requires you to immediately self-isolate for at least 72 hours. Afterwards, you should self-administer an Antigen Rapid Test (ART). If the result is positive, you must continue to self-isolate until you obtain a negative test result.

Once a negative test result is obtained, you may cease self-isolating and resume normal activities.

If you are an unvaccinated person aged 60 and above, you should consult a doctor after testing positive.

What to Do If You are a Close Contact of a COVID-19 Case (Protocol 3)

If you have come into close contact with a COVID-19 case, you may receive a Health Risk Warning by SMS, which will require you to follow Protocol 3.

Protocol 3 requires you to:

  • Acknowledge the Health Risk Warning you received through this government website
  • Self-isolate immediately
  • Self-administer an ART within 24 hours and submit your test results through this government website. Note that only your first ART result needs to be submitted online
  • Self-administer an ART on the 7th day after receiving the Health Risk Warning

If you need to leave the house, you must first test negative on an ART on the same day.

You may not always receive a Health Risk Warning SMS if you believe you have come into close contact with a COVID-19 case. For example, this could be where the close contact self-tested positive on an ART.

In such circumstances where you think or know you’ve been in contact with a COVID-19 case but have not received a Health Risk Warning, you should monitor your health over the next few days. If you are feeling unwell, you should visit a SASH clinic for a doctor to advise on your next steps. On the other hand, if you are well, you can still do ART for peace of mind.

If you test positive on an ART but have no COVID-19 symptoms, you must follow Protocol 2 above and immediately self-isolate for 72 hours.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, sore throat and breathlessness, you should follow Protocol 1 above and visit a SASH clinic immediately.

Penalties for Not Complying with Isolation Measures

If you do not comply with the above isolation measures (e.g. an Isolation Order or Health Risk Warning), you may also face jail time of up to 6 months or a fine of up to $10,000, or both, as a first-time offender.

Summary of Protocols 1, 2 and 3 for Isolating COVID-19 Cases in Singapore

Protocol 1 Protocol 2 Protocol 3 
To whom is this protocol applicable? Individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are physically well Close contacts of a COVID-19 case
Will you receive an alert? Yes, if you test positive for COVID-19, you will receive an Isolation Order via SMS No You may or may not receive a Health Risk Warning via SMS depending on whether you have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case
What will you need to do?
  1. Visit a SASH clinic and self-isolate at home
  2. If you test positive for COVID-19, you will need to remain isolated for 10 or 14 days, depending on your vaccination status
  1. Self-isolate for at least 72 hours; and
  2. Take ARTs until you test negative
If you receive a Health Risk Warning SMS:

  1. Self-isolate; and
  2.  Take ARTs

If you do not receive a Health Risk Warning SMS:

  1. Monitor your health
Where will you need to isolate yourself? At home or a community isolation facility At home At home
Will you be allowed to leave the house? No No Yes, but you must first test negative on an ART on the same day that you leave the house if you received a Health Risk Warning SMS

Stay-Home Notice

A Stay-Home Notice (SHN) is issued to travellers travelling from certain countries into Singapore. To check whether you will be required to serve an SHN and the number of days you are required to serve your SHN, please see our article on the latest COVID-19 rules or the SafeTravel website for more information.

If you are serving an SHN, you must not leave your place of residence or SHN-Dedicated Facility for reasons other than to undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test near the end of your SHN period. Your SHN might last either 7 or 10 days depending on which country you travelled into Singapore from.

You must arrange the mandatory COVID-19 test by appointment at a designated testing site. To travel to the designated testing site, you may use your own private vehicle or pre-booked taxi to travel to the testing facility and back.

If you use a taxi or private-hire vehicle, you should book your ride from only the list of approved transport service providers as found in this SafeTravel advisory. After taking your COVID-19 test, you must immediately return to your residence afterwards.

After the test, you will receive your COVID-19 test results within 1-4 days through SMS. If you have a SingPass account, you can also check the results by logging in to the HealthHub website.

If you do not comply with an SHN, you may also face jail time of up to 6 months or a fine of up to $10,000, or both, as a first-time offender. For example, in June 2021, a man who was serving his SHN in a hotel room was sentenced to 7 days in jail for sneaking out of his hotel room to meet his wife twice.

Do visit this SafeTravel website for more information on SHNs.

Defunct Isolation Measures (Quarantine Orders, Health Risk Alerts and Leave of Absence)

Quarantine Order

Quarantine Orders have been defunct since 11 October 2021.

In the past, you may have received a Quarantine Order by SMS if you were suspected to be a carrier of COVID-19 or a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case. If you received a Quarantine Order, you would have had to immediately remain quarantined at all times at a designated place for 10 days.

If you did not comply with a Quarantine Order, you may have faced serious penalties of jail time of up to 6 months or a fine of up to $10,000, or both, as a first-time offender.

Health Risk Alert

Health Risk Alerts have been defunct since 11 October 2021.

You may have previously received a Health Risk Alert by SMS if you had a possible exposure to a COVID-19 case.

If you did not comply with a Health Risk Alert, you may have faced jail time of up to 6months or a fine of up to $10,000, or both, as a first-time offender.

Leave of Absence

Leaves of Absence have been defunct since 11 October 2021.

A Leave of Absence was previously issued by the government in some situations as a precautionary measure. It was usually issued to a person who might have been exposed to the virus – such as a person who has been staying in the same household with members who have flu-like symptoms and have yet to receive a negative PCR test outcome. Sometimes, a Leave of Absence was issued pending the issuance of a Quarantine Order due to the close contact with a confirmed case.

If you had been placed on a Leave of Absence, you had to obey the following rules until your Leave of Absence was rescinded:

  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Minimise social contact with others
  • Monitor your health closely

If you did not comply with a Leave of Absence, you could have faced jail time of up to 6 months or a fine of up to $10,000, or both as a first-time offender.

The many COVID-19 isolation measures are part of the government’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. Although staying at home for days on end might be mentally taxing, you must ensure that you abide by the aforementioned measures so that you do not inadvertently spread COVID-19 to others.

Do visit the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s “Living with COVID-19” website for more information on the 3 protocols, and contact MOH at 1800 333 9999 if you have any questions.

Also, to stay informed of the latest COVID-19 regulations, do visit our regularly updated article on COVID-19 rules to learn more about Singapore’s current measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.