NUS hostel residents to be swabbed after Covid-19 RNA found in wastewater

The open area between South tower and North Tower at Utown Residence being cordoned off for the set up of swabbing stations. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Utown residents at NUS queuing up to take the swab test at the open area between South Tower and North Tower. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Residents of a hostel block at the National University of Singapore will need to be swabbed after traces of Covid-19 were detected in its wastewater.

Staff and students were informed in a circular seen by The Straits Times on Monday night (March 22). Dr Peck Thian Guan, director of the university's office of safety, health and environment, said low levels of Covid-19 viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) had been detected in a sample taken from an inspection chamber linked to bathrooms in the UTown Residence North Tower on Saturday.

The university has had a wastewater surveillance programme in place at all its hostels since Dec 7, as part of efforts to pick up coronavirus cases in a "safe, effective and non-intrusive way", Dr Peck said in the circular.

He said that swabbing stations would be set up at UTown Residence on Tuesday, and that the Ministry of Health required all residents in the affected apartments to have a swab test as a precautionary measure.

It was not clear from the circular whether this referred to all residents in the UTown Residence North Tower, or those in specific parts.

"The swab test has to be performed swiftly to identify whether there are other residents who may be or had been infected with Covid-19," said Dr Peck. "This is so that we can provide immediate medical care and support, while taking the necessary steps to cut the transmission of Covid-19."

Affected residents were also instructed to isolate themselves and minimise their physical contact with others until their swabs come back negative.

All other staff and students were told to stay clear of the block in the hostel, as well as the swabbing stations and their vicinity.

They were also told to monitor their health and declare their temperature via uNivUS, NUS's app, while complying with existing safe distancing measures.

All other staff and students were told to stay clear of the block in the hostel, as well as the swabbing stations and their vicinity. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Students and staff who have further questions are advised to check with the management office of their respective faculty, school or department, or e-mail

"Please remain calm, comply with the precautionary measures outlined above, and do not spread unverified information," said Dr Peck, adding that the university would update staff and students on the outcome of the swabbing exercise.

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