First pre-event rapid testing for Covid-19 goes smoothly

Participants being swabbed yesterday morning before attending conferences at the Singapore International Energy Week 2020. Around 215 tests were carried out yesterday, and most people appeared to have no issues with them. No one tested positive.
Participants being swabbed before attending conferences at the Singapore International Energy Week 2020. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The opening of the Singapore In-ternational Energy Week (SIEW) 2020 yesterday saw the first pre-event Covid-19 swabbing taking place.

A pilot run of pre-event testing using antigen rapid tests (ART) was announced last Tuesday by the multi-ministry task force dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the time, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that a successful pilot run might contribute towards a loosening of limits on group sizes for social gatherings.

But he cautioned that the tests, which are less sensitive than the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests used conventionally, may not be able to catch every single Covid-19 case, and that safe distancing measures would still need to be observed.

When The Straits Times arrived at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, where SIEW 2020 is being held, yesterday morning, there were no long queues or crowds typically associated with Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) events.

Signs were present on various levels of the centre reminding participants to download the TraceTogether app.

TraceTogether tokens were provided free at the entrance to the hall where the event was being held. The Straits Times was told that participants were allowed to keep the tokens.

After checking in with SafeEntry and having their temperature taken, participants entered a main hall where they were separated into different zones for swabbing.

Each zone had its own set of swabbing stations and screening registration counter, where participants received a confirmation SMS from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and a set of labels for their tests.

They were then seated at a swabbing station, where a swabber explained the testing process and carried out the procedure.

Participants had a swab stick inserted about 2.5cm up their nostrils and twirled several times, and were then told to wait for the results, which were sent via SMS.

The seats for testing were wiped down and sanitised after each test.

People were not stopped from mingling with one another while waiting for their results in the main hall, but had to present their results at a check-in counter before they were given their badges and allowed to enter the ballroom where the speeches were taking place.

Eight safe distancing ambassadors were also present to ensure safe management measures, such as the wearing of masks and making sure that everyone remained a metre apart from one another.

Around 215 tests were carried out yesterday, and most people appeared to have no issues with them. No one tested positive.

"I think it is bearable and quite fast, and the (swabber) was very gentle. I am quite happy with it, I worried for nothing," said Ms Jen Tan, senior vice-president of solar for Singapore and South-east Asia in the energy division at Sembcorp Solar Singapore.

Organised by the Energy Market Authority (EMA), SIEW 2020 is a week-long platform for energy professionals and policymakers to discuss and share strategic perspectives on issues in the industry and their impact.

This is the 13th year that SIEW is running, but the first time it has been transformed into a hybrid event with both virtual and on-site participants.

"I am very happy that exhibitions are getting back again, and I hope everything goes smoothly," said another participant, Mr Arturo Coloma, an international trade adviser at the Spanish Embassy in Singapore.

In a Facebook post later that day, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who gave the opening address at SIEW 2020, said the event had gone smoothly. He added that the Mice sector supports more than 34,000 jobs here.

Mr Chan said: "We will carefully study the lessons learnt from the successful hosting of SIEW and apply them to other upcoming events in order to ensure a safe, seamless and pleasant Mice experience for all our guests."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2020, with the headline 'First pre-event rapid testing for Covid-19 goes smoothly'. Subscribe