Coronavirus: Singapore

Long queues as hundreds turn up for free swab tests at screening centres

Bottled water being given to those queueing for Covid-19 tests at the former Da Qiao Primary School in Ang Mo Kio yesterday. By 11am, there were over 300 people in a line stretching 300m away from the facility.
Bottled water being given to those queueing for Covid-19 tests at the former Da Qiao Primary School in Ang Mo Kio yesterday. By 11am, there were over 300 people in a line stretching 300m away from the facility.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Long queues formed yesterday at four regional screening centres, as hundreds of people turned up for free Covid-19 testing offered to individuals with possible exposure to the active Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) had said last Friday that while close contacts of the cases - a total of 35 as at yesterday - had already been identified through contact tracing, it is pre-emptively mitigating any potential risk of wider, undetected community transmission.

This includes extending free swab tests to patients discharged from - or visitors to - the hospital from April 18, as well as those who had been to or work at public places visited by the cases during their infectious period.

These individuals will receive SMS messages with instructions on where to go to get a government-funded polymerase chain reaction test.

Until May 16, they can either walk in to a screening centre or book an appointment at a public health preparedness clinic (PHPC). The centres are the former Da Qiao Primary School in Ang Mo Kio, the former Shuqun Secondary School in Jurong East, the former Coral Primary in Pasir Ris, and the former Bishan Park Secondary in Sin Ming.

Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao reported dozens of people showing up at the Ang Mo Kio centre at 8am yesterday.

By 11am, there were over 300 people in a line stretching 300m away from the facility.

Waiting times were over two hours long at the Jurong East centre, and at the Pasir Ris centre, as early as 10.30am, staff began asking those queueing to come back another day, according to Zaobao.

The opening hours for the centres are from 9am to noon, and 1pm to 4pm daily.

MOH said individuals may be redirected to their nearest PHPC if screening centres are crowded.

It also said that only asymptomatic individuals should go to the centres, and those feeling ill should visit a doctor or a PHPC instead.

MOH and the Health Promotion Board - the national agency supporting Covid-19 testing - did not respond to queries from The Straits Times by press time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2021, with the headline 'Long queues as hundreds turn up for free swab tests at screening centres'. Subscribe