New COVID-19 test kits used to screen swab samples collected at Singapore checkpoints

New COVID-19 test kits used to screen swab samples collected at Singapore checkpoints

Newly developed COVID-19 test kits will be used to test swab samples collected at Singapore’s checkpoints from Thursday (Mar 5), promising results within three hours. Ahmad Khan with more. 

SINGAPORE: Newly developed COVID-19 test kits will be used to test swab samples collected at Singapore’s checkpoints from Thursday (Mar 5), promising results within three hours.

A collaboration between the Home Team Science & Technology Agency (HTX) and Veredus Laboratories, the HTX COVID-19 test kit has an accuracy of more than 99 per cent and is able to test for a result in three hours, said HTX in an information sheet. 

The test kit has provisional authorisation from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and can be used directly by laboratories or hospitals to test patients for clinical diagnosis, said HTX.

Home Team lab technicians working on the covid test kit
HTX lab technicians re-enacting the process of using the HTX COVID-19 test kit to the media at Pasir Panjang Scanning Station on Mar 5, 2020. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo) 

This is faster than test kits deployed at hospitals, which not only tests for the presence of COVID-19 but the severity of it.

Swab samples are couriered from Singapore’s land, sea and air checkpoints and transported to the HTX lab at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station. The lab can handle up 200 samples a day, with a team of about 20 scientists on rotation.

A three-step process occurs at the laboratory. Scientists first extract the sample’s RNA (ribonucleic acid). This RNA is then converted into DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) before a process known as polymerase chain reaction takes place. This helps to amplify the signal of the virus within the sample so that it is more detectable.

Home Team lab technician extracting sample
An HTX lab technician re-enacts the process of extracting samples to be tested for COVID-19 on Mar 5, 2020. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo) 

In the case that the sample tests positive, HTX will inform the Ministry of Health (MOH). As of 6pm on Thursday, one sample has been sent for testing at the HTX lab so far.

MOH announced the introduction of the COVID-19 swab tests at Singapore's checkpoints on Tuesday. These may apply to travellers entering Singapore who have fever and/or other symptoms of respiratory illness. They include those who do not meet the “clinical suspect case definition”, said the ministry.

Adding reagant to COVID-19 test kit
A close-up photo of the HTX COVID-19 test kit taken during media demonstrations at Pasir Panjang Scanning Station on Mar 5, 2020. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo) 

Currently at checkpoints, healthcare assistants conduct temperature screening for arriving travellers. Those who display symptoms of a fever are escorted to health screening stations where they will be further assessed by nurses.

Swabbing is then carried out on a case-by-case basis. After the test, they may proceed to seek immigration clearance to enter Singapore, but are advised to minimise contact with others.  

They will be contacted when the results are released and those with positive results will be taken to hospital in a dedicated ambulance.

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Source: CNA/hs

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