SINGAPORE - Mandatory Covid-19 swab tests at Singapore's first two quick test centres (QTCs) started on Monday (June 21) afternoon, with a small number consisting mainly of hawkers who were tested.
Those who were swabbed told The Straits Times that the tests - which were self-administered with QTC personnel present to offer assistance - were quick and painless.
The centres in Yishun Central and Tekka Lane have been set up ahead of a mandatory regular testing regime for individuals who work in higher risk settings. Regular 14-day testing for this group will commence from mid-July.
Under the regimen, those working in settings with unmasked patrons, or where there is prolonged contact between individuals, will have to be tested every two weeks. They include workers at dine-in eateries, hairdressers, spas and gyms.
These tests are expected to be self-administered.
The QTCs have been set up to support small businesses that are unable to organise supervised self-swabs on their own.
The centres were converted from former outdoor bus terminals in the two neighbourhoods, and came into operation on Monday afternoon. More of such centres will be progressively set up.
When ST visited the Yishun centre on Monday afternoon, a queue of about 10 people was seen at the entrance, but subsequently cleared.
There were no queues at the entrance of the centre in Tekka when ST visited between 3pm and 6pm.
The majority of those who went to the QTCs for swab testing said they were hawkers from Chong Pang Market and Food Centre or Tekka Centre.
Most said they were notified by the authorities via SMS last Friday night that they had to undergo mandatory testing at a designated time and QTC.
ST understands that testing at the QTCs are strictly based on appointments.
While some welcomed the start of QTC testing, others were mixed on having to report to the centres for regular tests.
Some, including hawker Ng Ah Lian, 58, said she would rather pay out-of-pocket for do-it-yourself test kits and administer the test at a time and place of her own choosing. Tests at QTCs are given free of charge.
It would be more convenient, she said, as she would not need to go to the QTC, which "takes up time".
Another hawker, 63-year-old Yeo Ah Leng, shared the same view, but said he would not mind coming back to the QTC for future testing.
"Depends on the situation, if I am free (on that day)," he said in Mandarin.
A Tekka Centre hawker, who wished to be known as Madam See, said she was aware that self-administered kits are available for purchase but does not know how to use them on her own.
"There are people at the centre guiding us step by step, so it is easier to use the test kit... It would be harder to pick it upon my own," the 71-year-old said.
A 60-year-old hawker, who identified herself as Madam Oh, also said she was not confident of self-administering the test properly.
"I might still come to the QTC a few more times and learn how to use the test first... After I am more experienced, I will be able to do it on my own," she said in Mandarin.
Some of the hawkers told ST that they were not told when and how they would receive their test results.
But at least one, Madam Oh, said she was told that her test results would be sent to her via SMS.
The Health Promotion Board told ST about 50 people were tested at each centre on Monday.
Each QTC has the capacity to test 1,000 individuals per day, and will be open for six hours each day, it added.