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     FrontPage Edition: Tue 18 July 2006

Singapore to hold large-scale flu pandemic exercise


Flu pandemic drill to test response

To prepare Singapore for the threat of a flu pandemic, a multi-agency exercise, codenamed SPARROWHAWK II, will be held from 21-22 Jul 06.
Led by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the exercise will test and fine-tune the Flu Pandemic Readiness and Response Plan at various levels among key government agencies as well as the public and private healthcare institutions.
This large scale exercise will involve over 1,000 personnel from MOH, the Ministry of Education (MOE), home-front and related agencies such as the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA), Maritime Port Authority (MPA) and the People's Association.
In all, some 21 Home Team and Related Agencies (RA) will be involved at the following 19 locations:
  1. Changi Airport Terminal 2;
  2. Tuas Land Checkpoint;
  3. Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal;
  4. All 7 Restructured Hospitals (RHs);
  5. Lions Home for the Elderly (Toa Payoh Rise);
  6. Pasir Ris and Bukit Batok Policlinic;
  7. 4 Parkway Shenton General Practitioner (GP) clinics at The Atrium, Harbourfront, Comcentre and Boon Lay;
  8. Greenview Secondary and Yuhua Primary.
Based on the scenario of a pandemic caused by the Avian Influenza infection in human, the two-day emergency exercise, which will start at 8.00 am on 21 July, simulates an escalation of the flu pandemic in Singapore.
Through this joint effort, we aim to strengthen the public health defence in the event of a possible flu pandemic and to gear up our national surveillance, response and operational capabilities.
The exercise is also an opportunity to involve the public and make them aware of the various measures in place. There is need for us to play our part in being personally and socially responsible so as to keep the disease at bay and slow down its spread should it hit Singapore.
The physical dry run will be based on the management of imported cases, procedures for contact tracing, as well as the implementation of infection control protocols at immigration checkpoints and healthcare institutions to limit the spread of the disease.
The exercise will also test our procedures for triaging of patients, registration and temperature screening of visitors at hospitals and polyclinics, isolation of suspected cases, treatment and transfer of patients.
MOE will also be exercising its temperature screening of students at Greenview Secondary School and Yuhua Primary School.
Community involvement
To inject realism into the exercise, there will be a simulated surge of flu patients at participating polyclinics, GP clinics and the set up of Flu Clinics to manage increased flu patients load.
About 500 community volunteers from Pasir Ris CCC and South West CDC will be involved to simulate the flu patients and close contacts at the polyclinics and air/land checkpoints. Additional volunteers from NUS will also be participating at the Checkpoint exercises.
There will also be imposition of temperature screening regime and visitor movement restriction and registration at the participating hospitals during the exercise. The public will be involved so that they could experience firsthand the impact of a pandemic.
The public will be informed of the flu pandemic exercise through a series of pre-exercise announcements and alerts by the respective healthcare institutions. The drill is also an opportunity to remind members of the public of the need to heed health advisories from the authorities. One such public health advisory is that should they develop flu symptoms in a pandemic, they should visit the nearest GP or polyclinic.
Foreign observers from the Asia-Pacific region such as Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia have also been invited to the Exercise so that we can share our experiences and benefit from the cross-learning.
This exercise is part of MOH's and related agencies' on-going efforts to sharpen our respective operational readiness and joint-capabilities for handling a flu pandemic.
We had earlier conducted "table-top" and "live" exercises in May-June with both individual public and private hospitals to fine tune their response plans.
This physical drill is a follow up to test and iron out any coordination kinks amongst a larger group of related agencies, which included the restructured hospitals, polyclinics, nursing homes, private clinics, border control agencies and other government agencies.
The success of the exercise depends not only on the government agencies and the involved agencies, but also the support rendered by the members of the public, especially those who would be affected by the exercise.
We would like to seek the public's understanding and cooperation for any inconvenience caused to them at the various institutions during this period.
Based on the exercise, we will continue to refine our Flu Pandemic Response Plan to sharpen our response capabilities and procedures.

Source: Press Release 17 Jul 2006

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