SINGAPORE: The Government will offer a one-off COVID-19 test to more than 45,000 people working at 110 hawker centres and markets and more than 1,120 coffee shops, as well as food delivery personnel operating in the locality of these eating places.
The testing exercise started on Thursday (Oct 15) in Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency, Kebun Baru and Yio Chu Kang Single Member Constituencies, involving more than 2,200 people in and around 11 hawker centres and markets, and 82 coffeeshops.
This will be "progressively rolled out to different regions of Singapore", the National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) said.
Details of the exercise were announced by the agencies in a joint media release on Thursday.
In August, the Ministry of Health (MOH) had said it planned to offer COVID-19 testing to community groups such as taxi drivers, food delivery workers, as well as stallholders at hawker centres, markets and coffee shops, as part of efforts to expand the COVID-19 testing regime.
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"These tests will be offered to these groups to provide a better picture of population prevalence and facilitate the early containment of any cryptic cases in the community," the ministry had earlier said.
On Thursday, NEA, SFA and ESG said testing has been extended to more workers as well as food delivery personnel "due to their higher frequency of interactions with members of the public".
PILOT RUN IN MARINE PARADE
The agencies said that the wider roll-out followed a "successful pilot run" of the COVID-19 testing exercise held in Marine Parade.
From Sep 19 to 20, voluntary COVID-19 swab tests were conducted for people working at three hawker centres and markets and seven coffee shops in Marine Parade, as well as food delivery personnel operating in the area, the agencies said.
"Over 750 stallholders, stall assistants, cleaners and food delivery personnel took the test. There was no positive COVID-19 case detected," the agencies added.
WIDER ROLL-OUT OF TESTING
The wider roll-out of testing to more areas would be conducted from Thursday to Friday at the following 11 screening centres near these hawker centres and markets:
"Beyond Ang Mo Kio town, NEA is in discussions with town councils, as well as the hawkers' and merchants' associations of hawker centres and markets in other parts of Singapore, to identify suitable sites, dates and timings for testing operations to be carried out," the agencies said.
They added: "The plan is to cover the remaining hawker centres and markets, as well as the more than 1,120 coffee shops, before the end of the year."
The agencies said feedback from the community groups tested in the Marine Parade pilot run had been taken into consideration in the expanded testing exercise.
This included scheduling the tests on weekdays rather than weekends, which were generally busier, as well as setting up the screening centres close to the hawker centres and markets to make them accessible.
Crowd control, safe distancing and hygiene measures will also be implemented at the screening centres.
"Stallholders, stall assistants, cleaners and food delivery personnel will be notified in advance by NEA, SFA and ESG, and the respective hawkers' and merchants' associations, as well as food delivery companies on when and where they can be tested," said the agencies.
They added: "While participation in the test is voluntary, members of the identified community groups are strongly encouraged to come forward for testing, so as to better protect themselves and their loved ones."