Long queue on first day of Covid-19 surveillance testing for Chinatown workers

People queueing for their swab test outside Kreta Ayer People's Theatre in Chinatown on Feb 8, 2021.
People queueing for their swab test outside Kreta Ayer People's Theatre in Chinatown on Feb 8, 2021.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The two-day Covid-19 surveillance testing for workers in Chinatown was off to a strong start on Monday (Feb 8), with more than 70 people seen waiting to get swabbed at lunchtime.

When The Straits Times visited at around 1pm, the queue was seen snaking out of the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre where the tests were being conducted.

Staff wearing personal protective equipment were conducting registration and taking the temperature of those in the queue.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that free Covid-19 surveillance testing would be offered to stallholders at the food centres and markets, retail shop owners and service staff, food and beverage workers, as well as those engaged in food delivery in and around Chinatown.

These groups are expected to interact more frequently with the public during this time, ahead of the Chinese New Year, said MOH.

While the polymerase chain reaction test is not compulsory, they are highly encouraged to get tested.

All the 10 workers ST spoke to said they knew about the Covid-19 testing as government agencies had handed out fliers in the area, stating that the testing would run from 10am to 4pm on Feb 8 and 9.

The test results would be sent to them by SMS within 24 hours. And they can continue working while waiting for the results.

Mr John Khoo, 66, who owns a stall selling clothes in Chinatown Complex, said: "I think this is a good opportunity to get tested. I want to have peace of mind when my four young grandchildren and children come over to visit during Chinese New Year. If I protect myself, I can protect them too. I'm fine with queuing an hour if it means being safe."

Others were concerned about the crowds during the festivities.

ST reported that about 300 people were seen crowding in the wet market at Chinatown Complex last Tuesday to stock up on popular seafood and steamboat dishes for the festivities.

Mrs Ellen Toon, 69, who sells pork in the wet market, said: "I will feel more assured going home to my family knowing that I got tested. If it's negative, I will feel much more relieved. We face so many people during Chinese New Year, and we don't know who is safe and who isn't. It's better to be safe than sorry."

Madam Neo Moy Kee, 64, who sells shoes in Chinatown Complex, said: "I did not want to get tested initially because I heard people talking about how it might be painful. But my children told me to do it as a personal responsibility. There isn't much of a crowd this year but we still interact with the public daily."

Madam Neo Moy Kee, 64, owner of Bi Tian Mei Store in Chinatown Complex, on Feb 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Madam Wan Wai Ying, 66, selling nian gao and Chinese New Year goodies at Da Dong Nian Huo, along Smith Street in Chinatown, on Feb 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

But some felt the queue was so long that they did not have enough time.

Madam Wan Wai Ying, 66, who runs a food stand selling Chinese New Year cakes in Smith Street, said she found the queue too long at lunchtime.

"I did not have time to queue because no one would help to man the store. If the queue is not too long tomorrow, I will get myself tested," she said.