Smooth start to Singapore's first pre-event Covid-19 screening

Participants getting tested for Covid-19 with Antigen Rapid Tests at the start of Singapore International Energy Week 2020. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY GOH
Staff at the Sands Grand Ballroom a day before the start of Singapore International Energy Week at Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Oct 25, 2020. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The opening of Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2020 on Monday (Oct 26) saw the first ever pre-event Covid-19 swabbing taking place.

A pilot run of pre-event testing using Antigen Rapid Tests (ART) was earlier announced by the multi-ministry task force on Oct 20.

At the time, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that a successful pilot run might contribute towards a loosening of group size caps for social gatherings.

But he cautioned that the tests, which are less sensitive than the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests used conventionally, may not be able to catch every single Covid-19 case and that safe distancing measures would still need to be observed.

When The Straits Times arrived at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, where SIEW 2020 is being held, on Monday morning, there were no long queues or crowds typically associated with Mice (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) events.

Signs were present on various levels at the centre reminding participants to download the TraceTogether app.

TraceTogether tokens were provided free of charge at the entrance to the hall where the event was being held. The Straits Times was told that participants were allowed to keep the tokens.

After checking in with SafeEntry and having their temperature taken, participants entered a main hall where they were separated into different zones for swabbing.

Each zone had its own set of swabbing stations and screening registration counter, where participants received a confirmation SMS from the Health Ministry (MOH), and a set of labels for their tests.

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They were then seated at a swabbing station, where a swabber explained the testing process and carried out the procedure.

Participants had a swab stick inserted about 2.5cm up their nostrils and twirled several times, and then told to wait for the results, which were sent via SMS.

The seats for testing were wiped down and sanitised after each test.

People were not stopped from mingling with one another while waiting for their results in the main hall, but had to present their results to a check-in counter before they were given their badges and allowed to enter the ballroom where the speeches were taking place.

Within the ballroom, guests were seated at tables of no more than five people, separated into different zones, and had to keep their masks on.

Eight safe distancing ambassadors were also present to ensure safe management measures, such as the wearing of masks and ensuring that everyone remained a metre apart from each other.

Around 215 tests were carried out on Monday, and most people appeared to have no issues with them. No one tested positive.

"I think it's bearable and quite fast and the (swabber) was very gentle. I'm quite happy with it, I worried for nothing," said senior vice-president of Solar Singapore and South East Asia (Energy Division) at Sembcorp Solar Singapore, Ms Jen Tan.

She added: "I was prepared for the worst because my friends told me it's really uncomfortable and terrible - but I thought the (ART) swab was tiny, so it was bearable."

Vice-president at Sembcorp Eddie Tan said he found the experience smooth and relatively pleasant. "I wouldn't say it was comfortable, but it wasn't bad... I was almost on the verge of sneezing or tearing, but it didn't trigger it."

A sample SMS message sent to those getting Antigen Rapid Tests for Covid-19. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY GOH

Organised by the Energy Market Authority (EMA), SIEW 2020 is a week-long platform for energy professionals and policymakers to discuss and share strategic perspectives on issues in the industry and their impact.

This is the thirteenth year that SIEW is running, but the first time it has been transformed into a hybrid event with both virtual and on-site participants.

Over 10,000 virtual attendees from around the globe are expected to join the 250 guests present at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

"I'm very happy that exhibitions are getting back again and I hope everything goes smoothly," said another participant, Mr Arturo Coloma, an international trade adviser at the Spanish embassy in Singapore.

Similar sentiments were shared by the chief strategy officer of Jurong Port, Mr Desmond Lim, who said: "I think nothing beats an actual conference where you can physically interact. This is a good start to getting Mice events coming back."

In a Facebook post later on Monday, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who delivered the opening address at SIEW 2020, said that the event had gone smoothly.

"The successful start of SIEW could not have happened without the full support of all partners involved - from the event companies that have adapted quickly to provide the services required for a hybrid event to participants who displayed understanding and patience of the new Safe Management Measures required," he said.

He added that the Mice sector supports more than 34,000 jobs in Singapore.

Mr Chan said: "We will carefully study the lessons learnt from the successful hosting of SIEW and apply them to other upcoming events in order to ensure a safe, seamless and pleasant MICE experience for all our guests."

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