Almost 1,000 hawker centre, coffee shop staff and delivery riders expected to be tested for Covid-19 this weekend

The community groups were identified due to their high frequency of interaction with members of the public. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - About 980 staff and tenants of hawker centres and coffee shops, as well as food delivery riders, are expected to be swabbed for Covid-19 over this weekend.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) said on Friday (Sept 18) that the tests will take place at the pavilion beside Block 75 Marine Drive, and the open plaza in front of Block 50A Marine Terrace.

The tests are part of a larger initiative that the Health Ministry (MOH) had announced on Aug 29, which involves offering one-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to community groups such as taxi and private hire car drivers, food delivery personnel and key vendors servicing foreign worker dormitories.

MOH said that the community groups were identified due to their high frequency of interaction with members of the public. It added that the tests are being carried out to provide a better picture of the prevalence of the virus in the population at large.

As of noon on Friday, 11 new coronavirus cases were confirmed, taking Singapore's total to 57,543.

This is the lowest daily figure in about six months since March 12, when there were nine cases.

MOH said that tests under this initiative are voluntary as there has been no local evidence that the identified community groups are at higher risk of getting infected.

This weekend's tests are being offered to stallholders, stall assistants and cleaners working at seven selected coffee shops in the Marine Parade and Joo Chiat area, as well as those in the Block 84 Marine Parade Central, Block 50A Marine Terrace and Dunman Food Centre hawker centres and markets.

Grassroots leaders and the local merchants' and hawkers' associations have been engaging them since Sept 14 to inform them of the tests.

People are seen at a testing site at the open plaza in front of Block 50A Marine Terrace on Sept 19, 2020. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Some food delivery personnel working for Deliveroo, Foodpanda, GrabFood and McDonald's have also pre-registered for the test.

The tests this weekend are not open to anyone aside from these two groups. ST understands that those getting swabbed need to bring along a form of photo identification with their NRIC number for verification purposes.

Those going for the swab have been told that the process typically takes between 10 and 15 minutes.

The results should be ready two to three days after the tests, and only those who test positive will be contacted by the authorities.

Testing is a key part of the fight against the coronavirus here.

Earlier this week, MOH said that on average, more than 20,000 swabs have been tested daily since July. These include pooled tests, where up to five swabs per test can be done.

"We continue to make progress in expanding our testing capacity and are on track to performing 40,000 tests a day if needed in the coming months," said the ministry.

Currently, most samples for Covid-19 testing are collected through nasopharyngeal (back of the nose) or oropharyngeal (back of the throat) swabs, which can be pooled, thus allowing for high volumes of tests to be efficiently processed daily.

MOH had told ST on Thursday that the use of saliva testing to detect Covid-19 is undergoing field tests here, with the health authorities assessing if it can be scaled for widespread use.

The ministry said that its preliminary findings showed that saliva testing may be "slightly more comfortable for some individuals", though mechanisms to scale up testing in laboratories, including pooled testing, are still being developed.

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