16 quick test centres for Covid-19 set up in S'pore, 4 more planned

People queueing at a quick test centre situated at a temporary bus interchange in Yishun on June 21, 2021.
People queueing at a quick test centre situated at a temporary bus interchange in Yishun on June 21, 2021.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Sixteen Covid-19 quick test centres have been set up here since they were first announced about a month ago, and four more are on the way as Singapore ramps up its testing capabilities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) - the national agency supporting Covid-19 testing - told The Straits Times  on Friday (July 23) that each centre has a daily testing capacity of between 400 and 1,000, depending on its size.

This means that at least 6,400 tests can take place at these centres each day.

HPB said that between June 21 and last Wednesday, about 13,900 tests were conducted at these 16 centres. They are located in Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Hougang, Jurong West and Pasir Ris, among other areas.

"We plan to set up 20 quick test centres across the island to make it more convenient for staff in the identified sectors to go for testing," said HPB. The 20 centres include the 16 already set up.

The board was responding to queries from ST about a tender it had put up on government procurement portal GeBiz on June 23, looking for service providers to set up more quick test centres.

It awarded the tender to two private healthcare firms, Minmed group and iGene Laboratory, on Thursday.

When asked how locations for quick test centres are chosen, HPB said it considers site suitability and availability and that it works with various ministries, agencies and site owners to identify appropriate locations.

Geographical spread, as well as the suitability and accessibility of the location to those who need to go for testing, are also considered.

"The sites must also have spaces that are vacant to be used for the testing and be large enough to put in place all the strict infection control measures to protect those being tested and the staff at the centre," said HPB.

The board added that in setting up a centre, it puts in place specific measures to ensure proper traffic control, queue management, infection control and safe distancing to avoid overcrowding and disruption to traffic, and to protect those who visit the centre.

At quick test centres, which were rolled out on June 21, workers in higher-risk settings can undergo the fast and easy test (FET) they have to do every 14 days. These tests became mandatory for staff in higher-risk settings from July 15.

They can get tested at any of these centres islandwide or do self-swabs under the supervision of a trained staff member from their workplace.

Under the FET regime, antigen rapid tests are used that return results in about 30 minutes. People administer their own swabs under supervision at quick test centres.

HPB said it expects most of the FET to be done by self-swabs supervised by an employer.

"Supervision is necessary to ensure that the swab is performed correctly," it said.

Quick test centres have been set up here to support small businesses whose staff need to be tested, but cannot organise such supervised testing on their own.

Outlining the process, HPB explained that people tested at quick test centres will be guided by trained staff on how to self-administer antigen rapid tests.

They will be informed of their results via SMS within the day. People with a positive or second invalid test result will be instructed to go for a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is used to diagnose Covid-19 infection but takes longer to return results.

The PCR test can take place at the nearest quick test centre or Swab and Send Home GP clinic.

"The quick test centres have dedicated PCR stations to cater to these individuals. All infection prevention and control measures have been put in place to prevent transmission risk," said HPB.