SINGAPORE: A drive-through site for COVID-19 swab tests has been launched in Singapore to test "priority groups" for the coronavirus, with three other hospital sites also ready to operationalise it.
Located at One Farrer Hotel, the drive-through facility is being used to "ensure the continuity of critical functions and services", the Health Promotion Board (HPB) said on Tuesday evening (Jun 2) in response to queries from CNA.
It did not elaborate on when the drive-through facility was launched or which groups were being tested.
HPB added on Wednesday that the facility was set up in partnership with Farrer Park Hospital to swab patients who require re-testing for COVID-19.
"The drive-through facility at the One Farrer Hotel lobby has been set up by Farrer Park Hospital to perform these re-swabs," it said in a statement.
The Temasek Foundation said it partnered The Farrer Park Company and Parkway Pantai to trial drive-through swab tests.
One Farrer Hotel was the first to operationalise this trial, the foundation said, adding that the Gleneagles, Mount Elizabeth and Parkway East hospitals are also ready to operationalise it.
Health authorities said earlier that all pre-school staff and nursing home staff and residents are being tested for COVID-19. Swabbers and swabbing assistants have also been hired on short-term contracts to support testing efforts.
READ: All residents and staff at nursing homes to be tested for COVID-19, some employees to be housed on-site or at hotels
On May 4, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the Government is working to progressively scale up its testing capacity from 8,000 to 40,000 tests a day.
"We will also do more testing and monitoring to pick out asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases among priority groups such as nursing home residents and staff, to prevent clusters from developing," he told Parliament in a ministerial statement.
At One Farrer Hotel, cars entering the test site will park head-first in a large parking lot. A swabber in full personal protective equipment then takes a sample from the patient, who does not need to alight.
Another swabbing assistant standing at a portable table next to the parking lot collects the sample. Once the process is completed, the car reverses out and drives away.
One Farrer Hotel general manager Gilbert Madhavan told CNA that "relevant authorities determine who are selected for testing based on public health priorities".
Mr Madhavan said the hotel could have been chosen as a drive-through test site due to the size and isolated nature of its drive-through area, as well as its proximity to Farrer Park Hospital.
The hotel has been repurposed into a temporary hospital facility since April, Mr Madhavan said, and all hotel operations like guest stays and food and beverage outlets have been suspended.
"One Farrer Hotel and Farrer Park Hospital together provide the ground organisation and staff for the COVID-19 test facilities," he added.
Farrer Park Company chief executive officer Dr Peng Chung Mien said it hosts and operates, on behalf of Temasek Foundation, the drive-through and a separate "ultra safe" booth testing facility for "prioritised populations".
"This ensures that our society can emerge more safely when circuit breaker restrictions are lifted," he added.
SWAB TEST BOOTHS
Located adjacent to the drive-through lots are swab test booths for patients who turn up on foot. Queues of people have been seen waiting to get tested.
The booths are manufactured by Esco Aster, a contract development and manufacturing organisation under Esco Group, a Singapore-based life sciences company.
According to Esco Aster's website, the test booths are designed for "mass swabbing" of potential COVID-19 patients, and can test about 12 to 15 patients an hour.
The booths are also "cost-effective and easy to expand for the number of units needed per hospital or location", and offer improved protection for both testers and patients, the website said.
The Temasek Foundation said Gleneagles Hospital was the first to operationalise such booths for testing, adding that the Parkway Lab Services is supporting with swab testing and results.
Dr Noel Yeo, Parkway Pantai senior vice president of hospital operations, Singapore operations division, said they are proud to contribute its healthcare expertise "to create a safe Singapore for everyone".