No long waits for Bukit Merah View residents to get mandatory Covid-19 tests

Swab testing for Bukit Merah View residents at Block 125A Bukit Merah View on June 20, 2021.
Swab testing for Bukit Merah View residents at Block 125A Bukit Merah View on June 20, 2021.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Mandatory swab tests for residents of eight Housing Board blocks in Bukit Merah View started smoothly on Sunday (June 20), as Covid-19 testing was expanded to break the links of virus transmission in the community.

The mandatory testing for residents of Blocks 116, 117, 118, 119, 124A, 124B, 125 and 126 Bukit Merah View was conducted at three designated locations in the neighbourhood, after 21 cases of infection were detected in nine households at Block 119 Bukit Merah View. Covid-19 viral fragments were also detected in wastewater samples collected from some of the blocks in the vicinity.

These eight blocks are close to the 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre, which is linked to Singapore's largest open cluster, with 70 cases as at Saturday.

Residents told The Straits Times that they did not face a long wait for the test, with most of them queueing for 20 minutes or less. Elderly residents with mobility issues were given priority to get swabbed.

Quality assurance engineer Chan Sook Foong said that the swab was not too painful, and that she wanted peace of mind despite having been tested less than a week ago.

She usually goes to the market at Block 115 on the weekends, said the 56-year-old.

Ms Bai Ruoli, 27, said she did not need to wait at all for her swab, as there was no queue at the testing station when she arrived.

Said the resident of Block 119 Bukit Merah View, who works as a production operator: "I'm not too worried about the recent increase in cases, but came down to get swabbed since it's mandatory."

Residents of these HDB blocks received leaflets and SMS notifcations about the mandatory testing.

Food products deliveryman Lim Ah Hwa, 62, who has received both his vaccination jabs, was also among the residents who went to get tested on Sunday.

"My job requires me to go all over the island, so it's better to get tested and know that I'm safe," said Mr Lim.

A 57-year-old private tutor who wanted to be known only as Mr Nair said he was glad that mandatory testing was being done in the area.

"The market is usually quite crowded on weekends, and there are always residents loitering in the public areas downstairs. It's better if we are all tested, just in case the virus has spread to more families," he said, adding that while the polymerase chain reaction test was uncomfortable, the few seconds of discomfort was bearable.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira told ST that some residents who went for testing on Sunday had already gone for voluntary swab tests earlier in the week, as they had been to either 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre or shops at 116 Bukit Merah View between May 25 and June 12.

Swab testing for Bukit Merah View residents at Block 118 Bukit Merah View on June 20, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Voluntary testing was open to residents from last Tuesday to last Thursday, after Ms Pereira made an appeal to the Health Ministry. Long queues were seen at the testing site at Block 125A Bukit Merah View then, with over 100 people seen in the line for those who had not made an appointment to get tested.

But despite being swabbed earlier in the week, many of the residents decided to get tested again. Testing is optional for those who tested negative for Covid-19 infection from June 15.

"Residents are understandably concerned, and they understand the need for the mandatory swab operations in order to cast a wide net to detect, isolate and ringfence any possible emerging transmissions in the community and reduce the risk of any spread," Ms Pereira said.

Voluntary testing for visitors and those who interacted with residents of the eight HDB blocks between June 5 and June 19 is also under way at the three testing locations in Bukit Merah View.