The National University of Singapore says a breath test that can detect Covid-19 infection within a minute has been approved for use in the city state. The revolutionary test was developed by university start-up company Breathonix. According to a Bloomberg report, the breath test works in a similar way to a standard breathalyser used to detect alcohol. The person being tested blows into a mouthpiece, while software analyses the breath’s “signature”, comparing it to the breath signature of someone with Covid-19.
The result of the test only takes a minute and tests will be priced from $3.80 to $15 Singapore dollars (90 – 355 baht). This has the potential to be a key driver in rebooting the travel sector in Singapore, which has been reluctant to re-open its borders and continues to impose restrictions as clusters of infections materialise.
Du Fang from Breathonix says the test could be used to re-open borders in the long term, but that will be for the government to decide. One potential scenario could be to allow travellers from low-risk countries to take a breath test and enter Singapore when the result comes back as negative. Introducing this measure would enable the country to at least re-open to arrivals from “safe” countries.
It’s understood Singapore will initially trial the breathalysers to screen travellers from Malaysia. If someone tests positive using the breathalyser, they will be required to take a PCR test for confirmation of the diagnosis. Officials in Singapore currently use rapid antigen tests for Malaysian arrivals and plan to continue using these, in addition to the new breath test.
According to the Bloomberg report, the Breathonix test has gone through 2 clinical trials in Singapore and 1 in Dubai. In 1 Singapore trial involving 180 people, the test was found to have a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 95%.