ABCs to all the COVID-19 acronyms used in Singapore

There are over 30 abbreviations in this list because we Singaporeans are obsessed with shortcuts and making things simpler.

Shannon Kuan

Weird talents include playing the violin, but with a ukulele and a clothes hanger.

Published: 8 November 2021, 4:22 PM

COVID-19 has introduced a lot of change into our lives. But one thing we didn’t expect was the huge influx of acronyms brought into our vocabulary.

With the ever-changing new rules being given out, it was only natural for us Singaporeans to find shortcuts to easily convey what we want to say.

Personally, I love the ease of acronyms. It’s amazing how a simple two to four letters placed in a specific order can immediately help convey the full phrase — which definitely helps when it comes to the rather lengthy COVID-19 related phrases we use often.

But given all the numerous acronyms many Singaporeans now use, it is understandable not to remember or even know them all. That’s why we have compiled a list of the more commonly used ones to ease your understanding.

Here are 34 COVID-19 acronyms you should know, in alphabetical order:

1. ARI - Acute Respiratory Infection

The symptoms of a COVID-19 infection are similar to an ARI. Such symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell.

2. ART - Antigen Rapid Test

The ART is a test to screen for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The process of using it involves inserting a swab stick up into your nostrils to obtain a sample to be tested. After 15 to 20 minutes, results will show.


If positive, two lines will appear — one on the control line, and another on the test line. PHOTO CREDIT: ANGELINE ANG

3. ATP - Air Travel Pass

The ATP enables foreigners who are short-term visitors — including business and official travellers — coming from Hong Kong, Macao, Mainland China, or Taiwan, to seek entry into Singapore.

4. CB - Circuit Breaker

Far from being a Hokkien profanity, CB in this context actually stands for Circuit Breaker — the nationwide lockdown we had from Apr 21, 2020 to June 1, 2020, in which we could only leave the house for essential services.

Hopefully, we will not have to regress back to CB in the near future.

5. CCF - Community Care Facilities

COVID-19 cases who are feeling well or only have mild symptoms and don’t require much medical care are sent to recover at a CCF. Doctors and nurses will be on standby.

Some CCFs include Connect@Changi at Expo and D’Resort NTUC.

6. CTF - Community Treatment Facilities

Similar to a CCF, CTFs are for recovering COVID-19 cases who are generally well but have underlying health conditions that require close monitoring. More medical staff are on standby there.


Connect@Changi and the newest NTUC Health nursing home at Tampines are some CTFs in Singapore. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/@CONNECTATCHANGI

7. FET - Fast and Easy Testing

Employees working in higher risk settings such as F&B will have to go through FET, a mandatory testing regime using ART kits.

8. GQF - Government Quarantine Facility

Close contacts of COVID-19 cases are isolated at a GQF under certain circumstances.

9. HBL - Home-Based Learning

All students islandwide had to undergo HBL during the CB period, where they attended online classes from home instead of going to school physically.

HBL used to be mandatory but that is no longer the case now.

10. HQO - Home Quarantine Order

A QO is a legal order issued to suspected or close contacts of COVID-19 cases, who must isolate themselves and comply with testing and isolation requirements. They are not allowed to leave their place of quarantine for any reason.

A HQO is a QO that one can carry out at their own place of residence.

11. HRA - Health Risk Alert

A HRA is issued to people who have possibly been exposed to a COVID-19 case, usually via text message. Those who receive a HRA are required to closely monitor their health and conduct self-tests.

12. HRP - Home Recovery Programme

COVID-19 cases with mild or no symptoms are allowed to recover at home instead of a treatment facility under the HRP.

13. HRW - Health Risk Warning

A HRW is more serious, as it indicates having close contact with a COVID-19 case. Those who receive a HRW are required by law to meet testing and isolation requirements.

14. ICU - Intensive Care Unit

The ICU is a special department in hospitals where there is top priority on patient-focused care for critically ill patients, both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related.

15. NCID - National Centre for Infectious Diseases

The NCID is a purpose-built facility designed to strengthen Singapore’s capabilities in infectious disease management and prevention.

They have been at the forefront of Singapore’s COVID-19 outbreak efforts.

16. P2HA/P3HA - Phase 2/3 Heightened Alert

Heightened Alert happened after Phase 3 ended, in which the Singapore government was forced to tighten restrictions due to rising COVID-19 cases.

P2HA was implemented on May 16, 2021, in which the rules permitted having a maximum of only two people allowed for social gatherings. Dining-in was prohibited during P2HA.

Singapore moved on to P3HA around a month later on June 14, 2021. Five people were now allowed to gather and dine in.

However, the nation reverted back to P2HA on July 22, 2021 due to the growing COVID-19 clusters.

We have now moved on from that phase and are currently in the Stabilisation Phase.

17. PCR - Polymerase Chain Reaction

The PCR is a test to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. It helps detect the presence of COVID-19 if one has the virus at the time of the test, and can even detect traces of the virus even after one is no longer infected.


The PCR test gives the most accurate results in 24 to 48 hours. PHOTO CREDIT: JC GELLIDON VIA UNSPLASH

18. PET - Pre-Event Testing

Those attending large scale events such as wedding congregations are required to undergo PET before they can be granted admission to the event.

It is usually mandatory, especially for non-vaccinated individuals.

19. PHPC - Public Health Preparedness Clinic

The PHPC scheme serves to provide for the primary healthcare needs of Singaporeans.

PHPCs are able to provide subsidised treatments for respiratory illnesses for Singaporeans, PRs and work permit holders.

20. PUQ - Person Under Quarantine

The title is pretty self explanatory. If one is placed under any sort of quarantine order, they will be labelled as a PUQ.

21. QTC: Quick Test Centres

QTCs are facilities where the public can book an appointment to do supervised and self-paid ARTs at $15 each

People usually go to a QTC to take an ART to meet work requirements, pre-event testing, or are unvaccinated and require to show a negative test result to dine out.

22. RRT - Routine Rostered Testing

Groups working in higher-risk settings or living in high-density environments have to undergo RRT, where tests are routinely carried out.

23. RSC - Regional Screening Centre

RSCs are facilities that have been specifically set up to carry out COVID-19 swab tests for target groups from the community who are well or have been diagnosed with acute respiratory infection.

The location of RSCs are mostly across different schools in Singapore such as former Da Qiao Primary School, former Bedok North Secondary School, and former Serangoon Junior College.

24. SASH - Swab And Send Home

SASH clinics are PHPCs where COVID-19 swab test services are available.

25. SDA - Safe Distancing Ambassador

You’ve definitely seen them patrolling around Singapore across various malls and public spaces. They are always donned in red and reminding people to abide by safe management measures.


Occasionally, you may catch them snapping a photo of those who fail to comply with the rules. PHOTO CREDIT: GRAINFALLS VIA UNSPLASH

26. SDEO - Safe Distancing Enforcement Officer

SDEOs are similar to SDAs. Except, only they have the power to take enforcement action against offenders and may issue fines to rule breakers.

27. SDF - SHN Dedicated Facilities

Travellers who are on SHN are required by default to serve it at an SDF. One can even book an SDF suite at a higher cost.

Wondering what SHN stands for? Your answer can be found directly below.

28. SHN - Stay-Home Notice

An SHN is a legally-binding order that requires travellers to Singapore to isolate at home or at a dedicated facility for a period of time, and monitor their health closely throughout.

Failure to comply with any SHN requirement is punishable under Singapore laws through a fine or jail term.

29. SHRO - Stay-Home Restriction Order

This term is used more often in the military and may be most familiar with SAF recruits. 

SHRO came into effect in May during P2HA to help reduce the risk of transmission and the possibility of a cluster forming in the army camp due to the large number of men contained in a single area.

After booking out from camp, recruits had to stay at home during this time and could only leave their homes for essential purposes such as buying meals.

Commanders would also call their men twice a day to check on their temperature and whereabouts.

30. SMM - Safe Management Measures

SMMs are rules and regulations put in place to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Examples of SMMs include the cap on the number of people allowed at social gatherings, and ensuring a one metre distance between patrons at F&B places.

31. TT - TraceTogether

All Singaporeans should be extremely familiar with this by now, as TT checking in has become a norm before we enter public places like shopping malls.


TT can either be done with the contact tracing app or a physical token. PHOTO CREDIT: MAX OH VIA UNSPLASH


TT helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through facilitating community-driven contact tracing.

32. VTL - Vaccinated Travel Lane

The VTL is an arrangement for fully-vaccinated people to travel for leisure without having to serve a SHN in Singapore upon their return. But in place, they will have to undergo a series of PCR tests.

Countries currently in the VTL scheme are Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Australia and Switzerland will join the scheme on Nov 8, as will the Republic of Korea on Nov 15.

33. VTP - Vaccinated Travel Pass

VTPs are issued to eligible fully-vaxxed short-term visitors or holders of long-term passes who are entering Singapore through the VTL.

34. WFH - Work From Home

WFH is the process of employees working from home instead of the physical workplace, and has probably felt like a norm to many of us by now.

In fact, it might have even made some of us a little too comfortable.

That marks the end of the list! Hopefully this article has been a useful refresher and that you’ve even learnt new acronyms that you didn’t know were a thing.

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