Singapore provisionally approves 60-second COVID-19 breathalyser test

The breath analysis will be carried out alongside the current compulsory COVID-19 antigen rapid test

  
A staff member demonstrates the usage of Breathonix breathalyzer test kit developed by Breathonix, a start-up by the National University of Singapore, able to detect the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) within a minute according to the company, at their laboratory in Singapore October 29, 2020.

A staff member demonstrates the usage of Breathonix breathalyzer test kit developed by Breathonix, a start-up by the National University of Singapore, able to detect the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) within a minute according to the company, at their laboratory in Singapore October 29, 2020.

REUTERS/Chen Lin

SINGAPORE - Singapore authorities have provisionally approved a COVID-19 breathalyser test that aims to show whether someone is infected with the coronavirus in under a minute, according to the local startup that developed the product.

Breathonix, a spin-off company from the National University of Singapore (NUS), said it is now working with the health ministry to run a deployment trial of the technology at one of the city-state's border points with Malaysia.

The breath analysis will be carried out alongside the current compulsory COVID-19 antigen rapid test.

The tests would be sold for between S$5-S$20 ($3.76-$15.03) each, depending on the number purchased, said a company representative.

The breath test achieved more than 90% accuracy in a Singapore-based pilot clinical trial, the company said last year. 

The Health Sciences Authority's website confirmed the approval, which the company said was the first such system to secure provisional authorisation in Singapore.

The system uses disposable mouthpieces and is designed to ensure there is no cross-contamination. After blowing into the device, the technology assesses the chemical compounds of the breath to determine whether or not a person is infected.

Any individual screened as positive will need to undergo a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 swab test, the company said.

Breathonix said it is in discussion with several local and overseas organisations to use the system, citing strong commercial interest. Other countries, including Indonesia and the Netherlands, have rolled out similar breath tests.

After recording almost zero or single-digit daily coronavirus tallies locally for months, Singapore has seen the number of infections grow recently and include variants such as more contagious strains first detected in India.

Singapore, which reported 24 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Monday, has re-imposed for a month the toughest restrictions on social gatherings since exiting a lockdown last year in a bid to contain the outbreak.

($1 = 1.3307 Singapore dollars)

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Chen Lin in Singapore Editing by Ed Davies) ((aradhana.aravindan@thomsonreuters.com;))


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