Coronavirus: Singapore Airshow grounds converted to isolation facility

The Changi Exhibition Centre's large indoor capacity of 33,000 sq m allows it to house about 2,700 patients. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The Changi Exhibition Centre, home of the Singapore Airshow, received its first batch of Covid-19 patients on Saturday (April 25).

About 50 patients with mild symptoms are now at the Community Isolation Facility, with their meals served by robots.

The facility's large indoor capacity of 33,000 sq m allows it to house about 2,700 patients.

This is more than five times that of the first community isolation facility at D'Resort NTUC in Pasir Ris.

It has the capacity to expand further if necessary, tapping another 75,000 sq m of outdoor space, the facility's executive committee said during a tour of the site on Friday.

The facility is managed by hotel Mandarin Oriental Singapore, and has 52 jet blowers to ensure the area remains well ventilated while the temperature is kept at 28 to 29 deg C.

The patients' living quarters are equipped with Wi-Fi access, fans, beds and storage cabinets.

Welcome packs, which include essentials such as hand sanitiser, detergent and toiletries, are distributed to patients.

A Telegram channel called Second Home has also been created for patients, broadcasting messages in various languages such as Bengali, Tamil, Mandarin and English.

Remote video URL

To boost patients' morale, volunteers from the Singapore Indian Association send words of encouragement over the channel at the start and end of the day.

Daily exercise programmes are also sent through the channel.

Patients also have access to a variety of free programmes on various TV channels.

Executive director of the Singapore Discovery Centre Joseph Tan, who is on the facility's infrastructure committee, said: "We wanted to make sure that the residents who are staying here would be as comfortable as they could possibly be."

The site was converted to its current state in less than three weeks, thanks to the combined efforts of nine Ministry of Defence (Mindef) affiliated organisations, as well as the Dormitory Association of Singapore, consultancy company Surbana Jurong, and Experia Events, which provided the venue.

Divided into zones

The facility is divided into three different zones.

A red zone, where patients reside, is accessible only by authorised personnel wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

This area includes an outdoor area with laundry, shower and toilet facilities, as well as the facility's medical centre, which is run by Raffles Medical Group.

A yellow zone sees staff undergo PPE checks before entering the red zone. This is where people disinfect their equipment and belongings before leaving the zone.

A green zone is for personnel to work and rest without having to wear PPE.

Tentage being set up at Changi Exhibition Centre on April 10,, 2020. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Patients are transported to the facility by bus or ambulance, and first undergo a security check where contraband items, such as alcohol and cigarettes, are confiscated.

They then undergo a virtual check-in using laptops provided for them before being separated into groups according to the stage of their illness.

There is also a welcome video introducing them to the facility.

Those who are in an early stage of their illness are sent for a review at the medical station before being sent to their rooms, which each house eight to 10 patients.

Four remote-controlled robots have been deployed in the facility, allowing patients to engage virtually with volunteers who can help answer questions in their language and organise welfare activities.

Patients are provided three halal meals a day from a selection of various ethnic cuisines.

In order to minimise physical contact between staff and patients, robots from ST Engineering are deployed to distribute the food to designated collection points.

Partitions are seen at Changi Exhibition Centre on April 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Various levels of medical support are available to patients.

Machines around the facility allow patients to check their blood pressure and pulse on their own thrice daily, with a medical team monitoring the results.

All patients are also given a packet of basic medication such as Panadol, as well as a thermometer, when they first arrive.

There are six tele-consultation stations, where patients can consult a doctor 24/7 with the help of a nurse who is stationed there.

More serious cases will be referred to the facility's medical centre for face-to-face consultations, and emergency cases can be evacuated to a nearby hospital if necessary.

Swabbing stations are also located in the facility, allowing patients to be tested and cleared before being deemed fully recovered and discharged.

Putting the entire facility together in such a short period of time was no easy task.

General manager of The Chevrons Tan Chong Boon, who is on the facility's operations committee, said that his team worked seven days a week from the start of the project.

The work continued all the way until midnight on Saturday, to get the venue ready for the first batch of patients.

But he said: "We're motivated because we know that we're doing it for a good cause."

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