International energy convention kicks off in Singapore with mass Covid-19 testing

Singapore International Energy Week 2020 will be held in a hybrid format that combines on-site events at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre with virtual ones. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - New ground will be broken this week when participants at the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2020 undergo pre-event swab tests for Covid-19.

The tests are part of a pilot to enable more activities, including large-scale events, to resume safely.

They will employ antigen rapid tests (ART), which are faster but less sensitive than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) ones.

A successful pilot might pave the way for looser restrictions on group sizes for gatherings, which are now capped at five.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said last week: "This does not mean that we can throw caution to the wind and ignore safe management measures at these events. So even if the test results are negative, safe management measures will still have to be strictly adhered to."

The Energy Market Authority (EMA), which is organising the convention that runs from Monday (Oct 26) to Friday, told The Straits Times that safe management measures will be in place for all on-site activities.

ST understands that participants have been told to arrive 30 minutes before the conference begins to register and take their tests.

They will be able to collect their badges for the event while waiting for test results, which should take about 15 minutes or so.

The results will be sent to participants via SMS. Those testing negative will be able to go to their meetings, which will take place in zones of up to 50 people.

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They can interact with the other delegates in their zone but must remain masked and stay 1m apart from one another while being seated at tables of up to five people.

Participants testing positive must return to the registration area where they will be taken to an isolated site for a free PCR test to confirm their results.

Results of this test will take from 90 minutes to two hours, far faster than the usual PCR turnaround time of one to two days.

Aside from the pre-event testing, SIEW 2020 will be held in a hybrid format that combines on-site events at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre with virtual ones.

This hybrid format was earlier tried here at the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific event held last Tuesday.

However, SIEW 2020 will be the first pilot meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) event hosting up to 250 attendees on site under the Singapore Tourism Board's Safe Business Events Framework.

The EMA said: "With live streaming, many more local and overseas participants are expected to participate virtually. This will facilitate exchanging of views and perspectives on energy issues across the week."

ST understands that a team of 35 social distancing ambassadors will be deployed at the Asia Clean Energy Summit, which spans three of the five days of SIEW 2020, to ensure participants comply with safety measures.

Staff sanitise the surfaces in a meeting room in Sands Expo and Convention Centre, on Oct 25, 2020. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Audience members on site will also not be allowed to ask questions as it would be difficult to pass the microphone around while observing safe distancing.

One participant, Dr Thomas Reindl, deputy chief executive of the National University of Singapore's Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, said pre-event testing would give peace of mind.

"This could be a model event for how future larger-scale gatherings in Singapore could gradually be held again," he added.

Other participants ST spoke to were supportive of the measures.

Asia-Europe Foundation communications director Lawrence Anderson said: "SIEW is being very responsible in instituting such measures. I do not have a problem with the on-site tests which I understand will only take a few minutes."

Mr Nicolas Leong, the energy business director for North and South-east Asia at Wartsila, pointed out that the hybrid nature of the event could be a good thing.

"Industry participation and reach seems to have increased with those (unable) to attend the event personally also being able to actively participate and contribute through a virtual platform," he said.

G8 Subsea managing director Gerald Tan said the event would be a test of the effectiveness of various virtual platforms being used for exhibitions and conferences.

He added: "It will be interesting to see how we can hold important networking events like this while ensuring we keep with Covid-19 measures."

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