Long queues for swab tests for people possibly exposed to Covid-19 cases at malls

Tenants were told to go for compulsory swab at Our Tampines Hub, on May 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA
Tenants were told to go for compulsory swab at Our Tampines Hub, on May 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: MOHD KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - When Mr Eric Tan, 62, joined the queue to get swabbed at a makeshift Covid-19 testing site in Our Tampines Hub, he did not think he would have to stand in line for more than two hours.

The senior citizen, who works at the FairPrice supermarket branch in the hub, said: "Though I can handle standing in the line this long, other seniors may not be strong enough to do so."

Mr Tan was among the hundreds of people who queued to get swabbed on Wednesday (May 19) at various testing centres and clinics.

Some were individuals who received SMS alerts that they had possibly been exposed to Covid-19 cases who had visited Jem, Westgate and White Sands malls, while others, like Mr Tan, worked in places where testing was compulsory.

Our Tampines Hub set up a swabbing site on Wednesday after the Ministry of Health requested that all its staff, service providers and tenants' staff be tested due to the rising numbers of potential Covid-19 cases.

Elsewhere, others rushed to get tested at Swab and Send Home (Sash) clinics, which offer free swab tests to those who have had possible exposure at the malls.

Mr Kyle Malinda-White, 29, said that when he visited the OneCare Medical Clinic at Bukit Gombak at 1pm, he saw about 40 people in the queue, and was asked to return at 8pm.

There was still a queue when he returned at night, and he was asked to return again at 7.30am on Thursday.

"I can see the healthcare professionals are really exhausted, so my heart goes out to them first. I'm happy to be back early tomorrow," Mr Malinda-White told The Straits Times, adding that he was self-isolating in his room in the meantime.

He had visited Westgate on May 14 and decided to get tested even though he did not receive a possible exposure alert from MOH.

Mr Malinda-White, a digital product manager at a cyber-security start-up, who lives with his sister and five-year-old niece, said: "I wanted to get swabbed to have peace of mind. Not just for myself, but for my family."

Several Sash clinics located near the affected malls told ST they administered more than double the usual daily number of swab tests on Wednesday.

The Northeast Medical Group branch in Bukit Batok performed over 40 swab tests on individuals who had visited Jem and Westgate, said clinic assistant Koh Jia Boon.

The clinic normally administers between 10 and 20 swab tests a day. But the total number on Wednesday was 56, including those given to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection.

"This is the most number of swab tests we've done in a day since we started doing swab tests in October last year," said Ms Koh.

People queueing to take a swab test outside OneCare Medical Clinic at Bukit Gombak MRT station on May 19, 2021. PHOTO: KYLE MALINDA-WHITE

At Edgedale Medical Clinic in Tampines, the number of patients who want a swab test has more than doubled to over 20 each day, ever since new clusters emerged, said clinic assistant Thila G.

Some clinics have had to place extra orders for test kits to cope with the demand. Ms March Yeo, a clinic assistant at Q & M Medical Clinic (Bukit Batok), said a batch of 20 test kits that was supposed to last a week ran out in two days.

Slots for swab tests at the Fullerton Health Testing Centre in Raffles City Shopping Centre were also snapped up. A check by ST on Fullerton Health's website at about 5pm on Wednesday showed that appointments for swab tests for Thursday were fully booked.

A spokesman for Fullerton Health, which is open to any individual who was at an impacted location, said: "We work closely with MOH on calibration of capacity and are able to comfortably accommodate (our patients)."

Affected individuals can also sign up to get tested at five regional screening centres on a desired date, though timings are allocated.

Additional reporting by Sherlyn Sim and Jeanne Wang

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