Surprise! Singaporeans will receive oxygen monitoring devices next month – but why?

Singaporeans who have gotten COVID-19 can expect to monitor their own blood oxygen levels for signs of “silent pneumonia” when they receive the oximeter device for free starting next month. 

Plans to hand out the gadgets by the philanthropic arm of state investor Temasek came as a surprise today, although the Health Ministry has spoken against the use of the oximeter by non-professionals before. Well, at least the device will be free of charge and entirely up to you to collect it at various distribution centers. 

“The COVID-19 virus can cause blood oxygen to drop to dangerously low levels, even when you feel well, or have no other symptoms of the virus. This is known as ‘silent pneumonia,’” Temasek Foundation said in a statement today. “If left untreated, the low oxygen levels can damage vital organs, with very serious consequences.”

Distribution begins July 5 at more than 300 collection points, including supermarkets and drugstores. Be sure to redeem an oximeter using the leaflet that will be mailed to households next week. 

Using the oximeter is easy. Place it around your fingertips, press the button, and wait a few seconds until the reading stabilizes. Clean the device before and after use, and keep it away from dust, vibration, high temperatures, moisture, corrosive substances, and explosives.

Temasek Foundation did warn in its statement today that the oximeter should not replace proper COVID-19 testings and that a low blood oxygen reading could also be a sign of other underlying conditions or complications. Blood oxygen levels between 95% and 100% are considered high, those between 90% and 94% are considered low, while readings below 90% are considered as dangerous and require immediate medical attention. 

The Ministry of Health has written on its website that there was no evidence of such devices being used to diagnose low oxygen levels and that it could produce “false readings.” 

“The devices are more useful in the healthcare institutions as the readings should be interpreted by a trained healthcare worker for proper follow-up,” it said. 

This is not the first time that the state investor’s charity arm was handing out freebies during the pandemic. It gave out a million face shields to frontline workers last year and facilitated more than 200,000 swab tests for migrant workers and those in sectors deemed essential. 

Nearly a thousand COVID-19 patients in Singapore were found to have the Delta variant that was first reported in India. Singapore recorded 14 new locally transmitted infections today, bringing the total tally to 62,470 infections and 35 deaths since the outbreak began. Over half of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

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