As Singapore push harder to execute its plan of increasing COVID-19 testing capacity, a new drive-through swab test facility has been launched at One Farrer Hotel, mainly for ‘priority groups’.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) noted that the facility is being used to “ensure the continuity of critical functions and services”.
HPB added that it has partnered with the hotel’s neighbouring Farrer Park Hospital for the initiative. The hotel has also be repurposed as a temporary hospital facility during the pandemic.
“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.
For those who visit the country’s first drive-through testing site, they will get their COVID-19 swab test while remaining seated inside their vehicles. They can also opt to use the swab booths located near the premise.
Health officials have earlier revealed that pre-school staff and nursing home staff and residents are being checked for COVID-19.
However, The Straits Times stated in its report that those who are being tested at the facility are those who require additional tests to confirm earlier results. It also added that the facility was operating since mid-last month.
Separately, swabbers and swabbing assistants were also hired on a short-term contract to meet the demand of testing amount.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on 4 May that Singapore is working to gradually increase 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 remarked in his ministerial statement in Parliament.
How the testing facility works?
As to how the facility works, cars entering One Farrer Hotel will park head-first in a large parking lot. While being seated inside the car, a swabber in full personal protective equipment will approach the patient in the car and take a sample from the person.
Meanwhile, another swabbing assistant will stay put at a portable table beside the parking lot to collect the sample. Once the process is completed, the car can then reverse out and leave the premise.
One Farrer Hotel general manager Gilbert Madhavan told CNA that “relevant authorities determine who are selected for testing based on public health priorities”.
As to why the hotel was selected as a drive-through testing facility, Mr Madhavan said that it could due to the size and isolated landscape of its drive-through area, as well as its close proximity to Farrer Park Hospital.
“One Farrer Hotel and Farrer Park Hospital together provide the ground organisation and staff for the COVID-19 test facilities,” he added.
For those who walk into the facility by foot, they can make way to the swab test booths located next to the drive-through site. CNA reported that people were seen standing in queue waiting for their turn to be tested.
The booths are made by a Singapore-based life sciences company called Esco Aster. Based on the company’s website, the test booths are designed for “mass swabbing” of possible COVID-19 patients, with the capability to test around 12 to 15 patients an hour.
Costing about S$30,000 each, the booths are also “cost-effective and easy to expand for the number of units needed per hospital or location”, while ensuring that both testers and patients are well protected.