Raffles Hospital roped in to offer free Covid-19 tests after large turnout at screening centres

MOH and HPB said this was a bid to further ramp up testing capabilities after long queues formed on Monday at four designated regional screening centres.
MOH and HPB said this was a bid to further ramp up testing capabilities after long queues formed on Monday at four designated regional screening centres.PHOTOS: ST FILE, LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) has engaged Raffles Hospital to offer free Covid-19 swab tests to members of the public with possible exposure to a Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) cluster.

The tests will be available until May 16.

In a statement issued on Wednesday (May 5), MOH and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) - the national agency supporting Covid-19 testing - said this was a bid to further ramp up testing capabilities after long queues formed on Monday at four designated regional screening centres.

Hundreds had turned up at the centres - in Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East, Pasir Ris and Sin Ming - for a government-funded polymerase chain reaction test, extended to patients and visitors who were at TTSH from April 18, as well as those who were at public places visited by cases during their infectious period.

The MOH and HPB statement said there was "keen interest" to be tested on May 3, partly due to the May Day off-in-lieu holiday.

The agencies said that in total, the screening centres conducted around 1,500 swabs on May 3 alone.

MOH and HPB added that the centres also responded to the "high take-up rate" of swab tests by increasing their capacities and extending operating hours - including staying open throughout lunch time.

"To ensure that safe management measures continue to be observed and mitigate overcrowding, queue numbers were also distributed onsite so that individuals could come back to the (centres) later in the day, or on subsequent days for their swab tests," their statement read.

On Monday, Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao had reported dozens showing up at the Ang Mo Kio centre as early as 8am - an hour before opening - and that wait times were over two hours at Jurong East.

The New Paper also interviewed an individual who was turned away from the Ang Mo Kio centre, who said: "It is quite concerning to see potential Covid-19 cases gathering like this. The risk and the long (wait) would deter those who want to get tested."