Mandatory COVID-19 testing begins for residents at Hougang HDB block
Residents from more than 100 units will be tested on Friday and Saturday.
SINGAPORE: Mandatory COVID-19 testing began on Friday (May 21) for all residents of Block 506 Hougang Ave 8, after the Ministry of Health (MOH) said late on Thursday night that “a few” positive cases live there.
MOH did not say how many cases tested positive, but noted that the move to test all residents is a "precautionary measure".
The swabbing exercise began at 1pm on Friday at the void deck of the block, and it will take place over two days.
"We have distributed leaflets to affected residents and will also send them an SMS notification. Residents of 506 Hougang Avenue 8 are also advised to monitor their health closely and consult a doctor immediately if they feel unwell," said the ministry.
"NOT A LARGE OUTBREAK": GERALD GIAM
On Friday, Member of Parliament Gerald Giam (WP-Aljunied) was at the block, which is in his ward. Speaking to reporters, he emphasised that the swabbing is a precautionary measure.
While he said he could not reveal the number of cases, he said it was "not a large outbreak that’s happened here".
"It's a small number of cases, so there’s no need for the residents to be overly alarmed. But it’s important for all the residents to be swabbed because MOH wants to make sure that the cases are contained," he said.
"I hope the residents would take this calmly and comply with the instructions that they would have received from the MOH via SMS."
Given that the block is "relatively large", housing "about 116" four-room flats, Mr Giam said that the residents will be swabbed according to the levels they live on to "space out" the testing.
The Health Promotion Board is facilitating operations that will take place from 1pm to 8pm on Friday and 9am to 4pm on Saturday, he added, urging residents to stay home after the swab test.
He also gave assurances that the block had been "thoroughly disinfected".
"We did a wipe down of the entire block including all the high-touch surfaces on the ground floor," he said, adding that another round of cleaning will be done.
Mr Giam was accompanied by fellow Aljunied MP Pritam Singh, who was seen speaking to residents. Mr Singh, who is also the Workers' Party secretary-general, wrote about the swabbing operation on his Facebook page.
Residents from the lower floors will be tested on Friday while those on the upper levels will be tested on Saturday, he said. A "key concern" is that residents may go to the void deck once the swabbing starts, crowding the area, he said.
Mr Singh urged residents to stick to their assigned timings "so that the safe distancing ambassadors deployed at the block do not have a difficult time".
"Residents of block 506, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the HPB team (excellent officers on the ground) or MP Gerald Giam if you have any queries/concerns," he wrote.
TESTING AT TAMPINES BLOCK IN JUNE 2020
Testing of residents in an HDB block was similarly carried out in June last year, when contact tracers noticed that members in two households in the same block in Tampines tested positive for COVID-19 and flagged this for closer monitoring.
As a precautionary measure, 58 households living in the same section of Block 111 Tampines Street 11 that are served by a common lift lobby and stairwell were "proactively identified".
MOH placed the households under phone surveillance and facilitated voluntary COVID-19 testing for them and their visitors.
In an update on Jul 17, the ministry said that 152 residents and 25 visitors were contacted in relation to the Tampines block. Of them, 123 people took up the offer for testing and all of them tested negative, the ministry said.
Additional reporting by Kurt Ganapathy.