SINGAPORE - Barricades and chairs were set up at the void deck of Block 506 Hougang Ave 8 on Friday (May 21) morning to prepare for a swabbing exercise that began at 1pm for the entire block.
This is after some residents of the 12-storey block were found to have tested positive for Covid-19.
This is the first time an entire block of residents, comprising 116 households, will be undergoing mandatory Covid-19 testing as a precautionary measure.
Swabbing will take also place on Saturday, as announced by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday.
Last July, 58 households were offered testing after nine Covid-19 cases were detected in Block 111 Tampines Street 11.
When The Straits Times visited the Hougang block on Friday morning, many residents were surprised that they have to take a mandatory swab test.
Some said they have yet to receive an SMS informing them of the swabbing exercise. Others said they read about the news online.
A resident, who wanted to be known only as Ms Q. Z. Tan, 38, found out that there were Covid-19 cases living in her block only after she read an article in The Straits Times on Thursday night. "They said leaflets were distributed, so I'm coming down to check my letterbox," she said.
The IT analyst, who works from home and lives alone, said that it was the first time she was leaving her flat in a week. As an added precaution, she will also be cancelling her weekly visit to her parents' home this weekend.
Another resident, Mr Amos Lim, 29, was shocked when he read the news on Facebook and decided to take extra precaution. "Instead of taking away food, we will get it delivered," the construction site engineer said.
Many residents also said they did not know how many cases were linked to the block or who they were.
Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and fellow Aljunied GRC MP Gerald Giam went to the block on Friday morning and spoke to residents and staff there.
Mr Giam, who is MP for the ward and vice-chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, said the town council has cleaned the entire block including high-touch surfaces after it was informed about the cases on Thursday night. There will be a second round of cleaning on Friday to ensure the block is thoroughly disinfected, he added.
Speaking to reporters, the Workers' Party MP noted there is a small number of Covid-19 cases at the block, and that the mandatory testing operation is a precautionary measure. He added that he could not reveal the exact number of cases when asked.
Said Mr Giam said: "I hope the residents will take this calmly and comply with the instructions that they will have received from MOH via SMS."
Residents will also be swabbed progressively by floor to prevent crowds from forming, he added.
"It's important for all the residents to be swabbed... if there are any other cases they are discovered immediately so they can isolate those cases," he said.
Meanwhile, several notices of the mandatory swab test were already plastered on walls at the void deck and at lift lobbies. Session one will be from 1pm to 8pm on Friday, while session two will be from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, according to the notice.
Residents are to take along their NRIC and TraceTogether tokens for identification.