DIY Covid-19 test kits being piloted at construction worksites

Currently, all individuals at construction worksites, whether vaccinated or not, must be tested once every seven days or once every 14 days, depending on their risk level.
Currently, all individuals at construction worksites, whether vaccinated or not, must be tested once every seven days or once every 14 days, depending on their risk level.ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

SINGAPORE - To further reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission at worksites, the use of antigen rapid tests (ART) is being piloted at construction worksites for those who are not living in dormitories.

These tests, which will generally be conducted once every three days, will be administered by workers through do-it-yourself Covid-19 test kits, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said on Monday (May 31).

This comes on top of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) rostered routine testing that these workers continue to be required to take.

Currently, all individuals at construction worksites, whether vaccinated or not, must be tested once every seven days or once every 14 days, depending on their risk level, such as whether they stay in dormitories.

Under the pilot, which started on Saturday, unvaccinated workers will take an ART once every three days if they are on a 14-day RRT schedule. Those on a seven-day RRT will take an ART once a week. Vaccinated workers will take an ART once every week or two weeks, depending on their risk level. 

In a circular, the BCA said that each employer will appoint trained personnel as supervisors to ensure there are proper infection prevention controls and the correct use of the test kits.

Some worksites will also designate and train specific personnel who administer the swabs for their colleagues, the BCA added.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Monday that DIY Covid-19 test kits will soon be available at pharmacies here.

These tests, which are simple to use, can be administered by front-line workers on their own, if they wish to test themselves frequently or even daily, PM Lee said.

PCR tests are the most accurate, but usually take a day or two for results to be known. The less accurate ART returns results in about 30 minutes and is used heavily for pre-event testing.

The pilot use of such ARTs at worksites is being overseen by the BCA, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

In its circular, the BCA said it is currently engaging worksites on the pilot initiative, and that more worksites will be progressively included as Singapore ramps up its supply of ARTs.

More details on the requirements and implementation of the tests will be provided when they are ready, including the necessary training and preparation required, the BCA added.

The MOH said on Monday that it will be extending the use of ARTs further, with pilots in student hostels in autonomous universities. It will also work with CapitaLand to run pilots at one or two selected malls for tenants and people who work there.

Those whose rapid test returns a positive result will need to take a PCR test at a Swab and Send Home Public Health Preparedness Clinic or regional screening centre to confirm if they have Covid-19. They are required to self-isolate until they receive a negative PCR test result.

Mr Eddy Lau, executive director of the Specialists Trade Alliance of Singapore, which represents specialist contractors and suppliers in building and construction, said that contractors support the move to pilot ARTs in the sector, as it will help to reduce the risk of the virus spreading at worksites and help to prevent a potential suspension of construction activity. 

“If there is a further lockdown, the consequences will be unbearable,” he said.

At the same time, he said, contractors are also worried about the costs of conducting such tests regularly, as it is unclear if the Government will be supporting the costs of such DIY tests.

“Workers also need to be trained adequately to administer the test to minimise the risk of errors,” added Mr Lau.