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So you’ve been in contact with a Covid-19 case. What comes next? Should you be self-isolating even if you don’t receive a Quarantine Order (QO)?

Along with the surge in new clusters and Covid-19 cases, there’s been an uptick in grouses about delays and lapses in the quarantine process.

Whether you’re one of the 10,000 odd people serving out their quarantine orders at home, or you simply need more clarity on the process, here’s what you should know about QOs.


QOs and when they will be issued

What is a QO?

Not to be confused with a stay-home notice (SHN), which is usually issued to travellers entering Singapore, a QO is a legal order issued to individuals who have Covid-19, are suspected of having the disease, or are a close contact of a confirmed case.

The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) website states that QOs may be served out at home, at a dedicated facility, or in a hospital, depending on the ministry’s assessment of the individual’s contact history, state of health, and the suitability of the home.

For example, if all the members in a household are issued QOs, they can serve their orders at home.

I was in contact with a Covid-19 case. Does that mean I’ll be issued with a QO?

Not necessarily.

According to MOH, close contacts are defined as those who spend 15 minutes or more within 2m of a confirmed case. This includes cumulative exposure on different occasions.

But being in close contact doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be issued a QO. MOH says it also considers other factors such as the nature and setting of exposure, type of personal protective equipment donned, and other clinical and epidemiological factors.

My TraceTogether app says I have a possible exposure to a Covid-19 case. Why hasn’t MOH contacted me yet?

An alert on possible exposure to a Covid-19 case doesn’t necessarily mean you were in close contact. It just means that your SafeEntry and TraceTogether records from the past 14 days overlap with a Covid-19 case.

According to the TraceTogether website, you should monitor your health for 14 days from the possible exposure and seek medical attention if you develop symptoms.

(Read also “Questions About Using The TraceTogether App Or Token? Here’s What To Know“)

You will only be contacted by MOH if the risk of infection is assessed to be high.

How long after contact with a confirmed case does it take for a QO to be issued?

According to Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, it takes two days on average to issue a quarantine order once the ministry is notified of a confirmed case.

This is a tad longer than the average of 1.5 days back in January, when there were fewer new cases each day.

The longest interval, though, was 14 days. This only happened for a small number of cases and was due to difficulty in tracing the infected person’s contacts, Ong said.

While some who have been issued QOs have complained of a delay in being conveyed to government quarantine facilities (GQFs), MOH has been ramping up its quarantine operations to handle the increased load, the ministry told The Straits Times on Aug 2.

Quarantine dos and don’ts

I’m fully vaccinated. How does that affect the quarantine process?

If you’re fully vaccinated, good on you! This means you’ll likely be allowed to serve your QO at home — if your home is suitable, of course.

According to MOH’s website, these are the conditions that you need to meet to quarantine at home:

  • You do not live with any medically vulnerable individuals such as unvaccinated senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals, those with heart, lung or kidney conditions, or cancer patients.
  • You have your own bedroom with an attached toilet and shower.
  • The members of your household will have to take an antigen rapid test (ART) on days three, five, seven and 14.

Of course, quarantining at home doesn’t mean you’ll be completely left to your own devices.

You will be monitored via video calls or the Homer app. You’ll also have to wear a wristband that monitors your movements. Spot checks may also be carried out.

The home quarantine process also involves one entry Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, one exit PCR test, and ARTs on days three, five, seven.

If you prefer to be quarantined in a facility, you can request for it.

(Here are “5 Quarantine Skincare Essentials You Shouldn’t Skip Out On“)

What are other circumstances where I might be eligible for a Home Quarantine Order (HQO)?

If you are below 19 and/or require a caregiver, you may also be allowed to quarantine at home.

And like we mentioned above, quarantining at home is also a possibility if your entire household has been issued QOs.

How does a HQO affect my family? Does it mean they can’t go out?

When it comes to home quarantine, you and your family are all in this together — literally. Even if you’re the only one serving a QO, those in the same household are not allowed to leave the home. They’ll have to sign a Letter of Undertaking or Stay Order acknowledging this.

If they refuse to do so, they may be asked to move out for the duration of the QO. The person under quarantine could also be moved to a government quarantine facility.

During the duration of the HQO, you should avoid contact with the rest of the household.

Who should I call if I have questions while I’m quarantining?

Call the MOH hotline at 6710 4022 (operating hours: 9am to 9pm) if you:

  • Are unwell
  • Have any issues submitting your ART results via the link provided by MOH

Call the Certis hotline at 6380 5072 if you:

  • Have a positive ART test
  • Require additional ART kits

For general Covid-19 related enquiries, you can call MOH at 1800 333 9999.

This article was first published in AsiaOne.