SINGAPORE - All 243 residents of a Housing Board block in Pasir Ris have been asked to undergo a swab test after four Covid-19 cases were detected in two different households there.
As at Sunday, 188 residents of Block 559 in Pasir Ris Street 51 have been tested, with 155 testing negative and 33 test results pending, said the Health Ministry (MOH) in an update on Sunday (May 23) night.
Initial investigations have revealed that the units with confirmed cases do not share the same stack, MOH added, unlike in the Hougang block. Epidemiological investigations are ongoing to determine linkages and the source of transmission.
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Desmond Tan said in a Facebook post on Sunday morning that the testing operation was a precautionary measure to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents of Block 559.
He told The Straits Times there are 79 units in the affected block, comprising a mix of households from young couples to intergenerational families.
In his Facebook post, he added that there was no need for residents living in the surrounding blocks to get tested unless they had visited households in the block from May 2.
The swab tests for residents will be administered at the regional screening centre at the site of the former Coral Primary School from 9am to noon and 1pm to 4pm on Sunday and Monday.
Later on Sunday, Mr Tan said those who had visited the block between May 2 and 18 should monitor their health and visit a doctor immediately if they are unwell. They can opt to walk in to get a swab test at the regional screening centre.
The four Covid-19 cases were reported by the Ministry of Health (MOH) earlier.
One of them is an 88-year-old male Singaporean who is a cleaner at Changi Airport Terminal 3. He had not gone to work after the onset of symptoms on May 4.
The other three cases are from the same household. They comprise a 47-year-old female Singaporean housewife, a 46-year-old male Singaporean who works as a swimming coach, and a 12-year-old female pupil of White Sands Primary School.
Asked how it decides that testing is required for an entire HDB block, MOH said it does so when epidemiology investigations have assessed that there is a possibility of ongoing transmission.
“There is no one single trigger. Risk assessment is based on a number of factors, such as the total number of cases within the block, the potential risk of transmission by these individuals, and likely modes of transmission,” the ministry added.
More details about the testing are provided on a flier from MOH that was delivered door to door, said Mr Tan, who is Minister of State for Home Affairs and Sustainability and the Environment.
Residents will also receive a text message notifying them about their appointment for the swab.
Mr Tan said he had met residents at the block from before 9am this morning to speak with them. Many of them had asked after their neighbours who had tested Covid-19 positive, he added.
“I assured them that they are very well taken care of in either care facilities or the hospital, and that close contacts have also been taken to quarantine facilities,” he said.
Other residents had asked whether they should also quarantine themselves, Mr Tan said.
He assured them that that was not necessary as the swabbing exercise was a precautionary measure.
“The whole idea is to give us confidence and assurances and peace of mind,” he said.
He added that they should also work from home as much as possible and minimise their movement, at least until their test results are out. “But they are not under quarantine."
One resident living in the affected block is Mr Reyza Hamizan Mahmod, a 32-year-old freelance music producer.
Speaking to The Straits Times on Sunday morning at the foot of his block, he said he was informed by MOH about the cases at about 8pm on Saturday evening. His swab appointment is for Monday morning.
“Of course we are worried, but I think we have the protocols in place. I’m sure everyone will play their part in terms of taking care of one another,” he said.
There are seven members in his household, the youngest being an 11-month-old boy and the oldest, Mr Reyza's 70-year-old father.
Mr Reyza said his family will be taking added precautions over the next few days, including not accepting visitors until their swab results are out. He will also be taking the next few days off work.
Another resident of Block 559, housewife Jenny Chua, 73, was seen heading to the swabbing centre on Sunday with her domestic helper and her brother, whom Ms Chua was caring for at her home.
She said she was not worried about the cases in the block since she has little interaction with her neighbours, but was going for the swab test for peace of mind.
The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council has worked with the National Environment Agency to thoroughly clean and disinfect the common area at Block 559 and surrounding blocks, Mr Tan said.
He thanked residents for their understanding and cooperation.
“My advice to them is the same, to try and stay home. Look out for each other. If you're unwell, do go and seek medical attention as soon as possible and get yourself tested when you are asked to... It is really for the safety and for the community, and your family and loved ones as well.”
This is the second HDB block where several Covid-19 cases have surfaced, after Block 506 in Hougang Avenue 8.
Residents in that block went for mandatory Covid-19 testing on Friday and Saturday.