Singapore’s Raffles Hospital engaged to conduct free public Covid-19 testing after long queues at screening centres

Members of the public who have been to places visited by infectious Covid-19 cases under the Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster may get tested for the coronavirus at Raffles Hospital. ― TODAY pic
Members of the public who have been to places visited by infectious Covid-19 cases under the Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster may get tested for the coronavirus at Raffles Hospital. ― TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, May 6 — Raffles Hospital has been engaged to conduct free Covid-19 swab tests after thousands turned up at four regional screening centres on Monday (May 3), when public testing of possible exposure to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) cluster began.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) said yesterday (May 5) that people who were at places where the TTSH cases had visited during their infectious period may walk into the private hospital on North Bridge Road for their free test until May 16.

The joint reply from MoH and HPB said that there had been “keen interest” among these people to be tested at the “swab and send home” clinics and the four regional screening centres in Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Jurong East and Pasir Ris on the first day of the exercise on May 3.

The massive turnout was partly due to the off-in-lieu holiday on May 3 for May 1, which was Labour Day, MoH and HPB said.

Around 1,500 swabs were done for these individuals, they added.

“In view of the high take-up rate of swab tests among these individuals, the regional screening centres (had) increased their capacities and extended their operating hours on May 3, including staying open throughout lunch time to swab more individuals,” the statement read.

To “further step up our testing capabilities”, Raffles Hospital had been engaged to conduct testing, MOh and HPB said.

On Monday, TODAY reported that the wait times in the morning ranged between three and five hours at the centres in Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Pasir Ris, with queue lines snaking more than 200m from the testing centres in some cases.

Some people were given time slots for their swab tests, but by late morning, many people were told to come back another day because no more slots were available.

Staff members from the testing centres told TODAY that it was difficult to manage the queues and enforce a 1m safe distancing between people.

MoH and HPB said: “To ensure that safe management measures continue to be observed and mitigate overcrowding, queue numbers were also distributed onsite so that individuals could come back to the regional screening centres later in the day, or on subsequent days for their swab tests.” ― TODAY

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