Coronavirus: Singapore

Covid-19 testing labs in full swing amid mass testing exercises

Parkway Laboratories staff processing Covid-19 swabs last Friday. To cope with the increased workload, it has increased manpower, with some laboratory technicians working longer shifts or volunteering to work on their days off. PHOTO: PARKWAY LABORAT
Parkway Laboratories staff processing Covid-19 swabs last Friday. To cope with the increased workload, it has increased manpower, with some laboratory technicians working longer shifts or volunteering to work on their days off. PHOTO: PARKWAY LABORATORIES

Machines processing polymerase chain reaction swabs at Parkway Laboratories have been fully utilised over the last two weeks, with laboratory technicians working 16 to 18 hours daily to meet the surge in demand, said chief executive Daniel Tan.

Some lab technicians are even volunteering to return on their days off, he added.

"This has been the busiest I've been since I joined (the firm) in 2017. It's even busier than the first wave last year as we did not have as much testing capacity then," Dr Tan said.

The surge in testing comes as Singapore moves aggressively to curb community transmissions of Covid-19 with mass testing and swabbing taking place at many places, including at Swab and Send Home clinics.

Innoquest Diagnostics CEO Ginny Foo said she has increased manpower and is considering bringing in more analysers. These will lead to increased testing capacity and faster turnaround time for results.

She said: "We need to recruit more medical technologists to perform tests, as well as dispatch and van drivers to collect the samples. We are hiring very aggressively now.

"It's absolutely all hands on deck to meet the nation's testing needs at this moment."

Dr Tan said Parkway Laboratories has been operating 24 hours a day for seven days a week since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has increased manpower to run the lab at full staffing at all hours, even at nights and on weekends, when it has to deal with the same volume of swabs that are sent in on weekdays.

The lab has also mobilised all staff, including those in administration, to help with swab registration duties. Dispatch drivers now double up to resupply clinics with new Covid-19 test kits when they make their collection rounds.

Parkway Laboratories has also introduced rigorous measures to ensure swabs that are clinically significant are moved to the front of the queue and processed first.

Clinically urgent swabs are those indicated by an ordering doctor as being a suspected case or a symptomatic patient with acute respiratory illness, said Dr Tan.

"Clinically urgent swabs are put in the priority queue so that we can get results very quickly, and any Covid-19-positive results can be acted upon swiftly," he added.

Sherlyn Sim

  • What should I do while waiting for test result?

  • • People swabbed for Covid-19 as part of rostered routine testing in the community do not need to self-isolate while waiting for the result of their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

    • However, individuals who present symptoms of acute respiratory infection while at medical clinics, polyclinics, emergency departments or when referred to designated regional screening centres are required to take both the antigen rapid test (ART) and PCR test.

    • They would be issued with at least a three-day medical certificate (MC) and be required by law to stay home for the duration of their MC, or until they receive a negative Covid-19 swab test result, whichever is sooner.

    • During the period of their MC, they should only leave their home to seek medical attention if necessary.

    • Most individuals would receive their test result within 24 hours of their swabs, but this may take longer based on lab capacity and testing demands.

    • People whose PCR tests are positive will be isolated and sent to appropriate care facilities for medical care.

    SOURCE: MINISTRY OF HEALTH

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2021, with the headline 'Covid-19 testing labs in full swing amid mass testing exercises'. Subscribe