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:
Separately, individuals entering Singapore from abroad who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will 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).
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. Stay calm and do not rush to a hospital emergency department to get tested.
Protocol 1 requires you to visit a doctor by private transport, or request for a telemedicine consultation via a telemedicine provider, to take an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) and/or a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, depending on whether you are a high-risk individual and the severity of your symptoms. A person is a high-risk individual if they are elderly, pregnant or immunocompromised.
If you are a low-risk individual and have only mild symptoms, the doctor will administer an ART. If you test positive, you will be cared for as per Protocol 2 below. You should also inform your close contacts so that they can get tested. However, if your test result is negative, then you may resume normal activities.
If you are a high-risk individual or have severe symptoms, the doctor will administer both an ART and PCR test on you. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, you will be directed to a hospital for further assessment.
On the other hand, if you are a high-risk individual but do not have severe symptoms, you will have to immediately return home and self-isolate in a room while waiting for your PCR test result. If you test positive, you will be issued an Isolation Order.
Ministry of Health (MOH) 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 first self-isolate at home for 72 hours.
After 72 hours, self-administer an ART. If your ART is negative, you may exit self-isolation and resume normal activities. However, if your ART is positive, then you will have to continue self-isolating until you receive a negative result, or until you have reached the day of discharge, which is namely:
- Day 7, at 12pm, after your first positive test result if you are fully vaccinated or aged 12 years and below; or
- Day 14, at 12pm, if you are partially vaccinated or are an unvaccinated person aged 12 years old and above.
You should minimise social activities for 7 days after your discharge.
If your home environment renders you unsuitable for the Home Recovery Programme, arrangements will be made for you to continue your isolation at a care facility.
The following persons are also not eligible for the Home Recovery Programme:
- Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated persons aged 80 years and older;
- Children aged less than 3 months old;
- Pregnant women with gestation age 36 weeks and above;
- Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated pregnant women;
- Low-risk individuals with mild symptoms who are already under the care of their primary care doctor as part of Protocol 2.
If you require medical assistance, you should contact the doctor who conducted your COVID-19 test (if they are participating in the Home Recovery Programme) or a telemedicine doctor. Arrangements will be made to transfer you to a hospital if your symptoms are severe.
For more information on the Home Recovery Programme, do visit the Living with COVID-19 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, or have been assessed by a doctor to have mild symptoms, you must follow Protocol 2.
Protocol 2 requires you to immediately self-isolate for at least 72 hours. Afterwards, you should self-administer an ART. If the result is positive, you must continue to self-isolate until you obtain a negative test result.
You should still visit a doctor for medical advice even if you feel well after testing ART positive if any of the following applies to you:
- You are above 70 years old
- You are less than 12 months old
- You have had an organ transplant surgery in the past
- You have any disease or are taking any medication that weakens the immune system
- You have been diagnosed with cancer before
- You are on dialysis
- You are diagnosed with HIV or AIDS
- You have a disease affecting your heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, or brain that required hospital admission in the last 6 months
- You are pregnant
- You are younger than 12 years old and have any congenital condition or growth disorder that affects the heart, lungs or brain, or
- You are younger than 12 years old and have diabetes mellitus or hypertension
What to Do If You are a Close Contact of a COVID-19 Case (Protocol 3)
Individuals who think or know you’ve been in contact with a COVID-19 case should take ART over the next 5 days. If you need to leave the house anytime during these 5 days, you should first ensure that you have tested negative.
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 doctor immediately.
Penalties for Not Complying with Isolation Measures
If you do not comply with the above isolation measures (e.g. an Isolation Order), 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||No|
|What will you need to do?||
|Where will you need to isolate yourself?||At home or a care facility||At home||At home|
|Will you be allowed to leave the house?||No, until you test negative or until you have reached Day 7 or Day 14 after your first positive result, depending on your vaccination status and age||No, until your ART result is negative or until you have reached Day 7 or Day 14 after your first positive result, depending on your vaccination status and age||Yes, but you should first test negative on an ART on the same day that you leave the house|
A Stay-Home Notice (SHN) is issued to travellers who are not fully vaccinated and who are travelling from certain countries into Singapore.
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. The SHN period will be 7 days.
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 the SafeTravel website for more information on SHNs.
Defunct Isolation Measures (Health Risk Warning, Quarantine Orders, Health Risk Alerts and Leave of Absence)
Health Risk Notice
Health Risk Notices have been defunct since 26 April 2022.
If you previously came into close contact with a COVID-19 case, you may have received a Health Risk Notice by SMS requiring you to follow Protocol 3.
At that time, Protocol 3 required you to:
- Acknowledge the Health Risk Notice you received
- Self-isolate immediately
- Self-administer an ART within 24 hours
- Self-administer an ART on the 5th day after receiving the Health Risk Notice.
If you needed to leave the house anytime between Days 2 and 4 after receiving the Health Risk Notice, you had to first test negative on an ART on the same day.
You may not have always received a Health Risk Notice SMS even though you believed you had come into close contact with a COVID-19 case. For example, this could be where the close contact self-tested positive on an ART.
Health Risk Warning
Health Risk Warnings have been defunct since 18 February 2022.
You may have previously received a Health Risk Warning by SMS if you had come into close contact with a COVID-19 case, which would have required to:
- Acknowledge the Health Risk Warning you received
- Self-isolate immediately
- Self-administer an ART within 24 hours and submit your test results
- Self-administer an ART on the 7th day after receiving the Health Risk Warning.
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.