Long queues at some quick test centres as self-testing is expanded

A fast and easy process to get tested for Covid-19 became an almost two-hour wait for some as long lines formed at some quick test centres (QTCs) here over the past two days. This was after an enhanced fast and easy rostered routine testing (RRT) regimen took effect on Monday.

To curb the recent surge in coronavirus infections, the mandatory self-testing regimen was extended to workers in more sectors, and the frequency of testing was increased from every 14 days to once a week.

Previously, only workers in higher-risk settings such as food and beverage outlets, personal care services and gym and fitness studios had to undergo regular self-tests.

Now, retail mall workers, supermarket staff, last-mile delivery workers - including parcel and food delivery workers - and public and private transport workers have to undergo the regular self-tests as well.

About 100 people were waiting in line at the QTC located in the basement carpark of Bishan Sports Hall yesterday morning, according to Ms Sally Lai, 60, who works in a salon. She had an 11.30am appointment to undergo mandatory self-testing at the QTC but ended up having to return at about 3pm as she was told the crowd would be much thinner then.

This was in stark contrast to the week before, when Ms Lai first started doing her self-tests at the same QTC in Bishan. It was empty when she was there last week at about 1pm, Ms Lai told The Straits Times.

It was a similar situation at the QTC in Pasir Ris Sports Hall.

Para swimming coach Danny Ong, 45, said he was there for his appointment at 12.30pm on Monday, and had to wait in line for more than an hour. There were about 30 to 40 people in the queue, and this was still the case when he left at about 2pm after doing his test.

"It was quite frustrating. Monday was really horrible," said Mr Ong, who has been doing his self-testing at the Pasir Ris QTC since late June.

Before this week, the longest it took him was about 20 minutes.

"What is the point of giving an allocated time when I have to wait for 11/2 hours?" he added.

Sports coaches who spoke to ST lamented the fact that they could book appointments at only three out of the 20 QTCs islandwide.

According to a July notice from Sport Singapore (SportSG), all self-employed people and small businesses in the sports and fitness sector who are unable to organise supervised self-swabs on their own must make appointments at Bishan, Jurong West and Pasir Ris sport centres for the self-tests.

At the QTCs, the kits are free of charge until Dec 31.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2021, with the headline 'Long queues at some quick test centres as self-testing is expanded'. Subscribe