When it was first announced that psychology services, such as therapy, were considered non-essential, many mental health practitioners were disappointed. However, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Health then told The New Paper that face-to-face consultations were allowed for patients with unstable mental health conditions, such as those who are at risk of harming themselves.

With the extension of the circuit breaker to June 1, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has re-categorised allied health services outside of the public healthcare institutions as essential services, effective from Wednesday (April 29).

This includes rehabilitation or therapy services, and other allied health services such as dietetics, counselling, social work, psychology and podiatry.

The ministry said on Tuesday that there will be restrictions in place for the provision of allied health services to ensure that overall movement and interactions are still minimised during this period.

These include keeping therapy to one-to-one sessions, and to prioritise face-to-face consultations for patients whose condition may significantly or rapidly deteriorate and thus potentially threaten their health and well being, if they do not receive the therapy or treatment.

All allied health professionals will also have to continue to adhere to the prevailing safe distancing, crowd management and personal protective equipment (PPE) measures.

The MOH also urged service providers to deliver their services through tele-consultation where possible to reduce the risk of patient exposure to Covid-19.

The Singapore Psychological Society said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that practitioners on the Singapore Register of Psychologists who wish to continue operating should check their e-mails on Tuesday for further instructions on submitting hours to keep their clinics or centres open.

It said practitioners will only be allowed to open for no more than four consecutive hours a day and no more than five days a week.

It emphasised that psychological services are important and that mental health service users should be protected, noting that there has been increased attention in the media regarding psychological consultation and treatment amid Covid-19.

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Text: Clement Yong / The Straits Times / April 2020