On-the-spot Covid-19 tests may become the norm for future events.
On Oct. 20, the Covid-19 Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) announced in a press conference that they are piloting the use of pre-event tests, to reduce the risk of a Covid-19 case being present.
This applies to larger-scale and higher-risk activities across different sectors, such as:
- Wedding receptions
- Live performances
- Sports events
- Business-to-business events
MTF said that these pilot events will be selected in consultation with the event organisers, on the basis of workflow feasibility.
These pilots will take place from mid-October to December 2020.
Process for attendees
Pre-event testing requires participants to an event or activity to be tested shortly before the event, either at the event venue itself or at a separate testing facility.
Only participants who test negative for Covid-19 will be allowed to participate in the event.
The scenario will be vary from event to event, as the the government is trialling different processes for each pilot.
If the testing is being conducted at the event venue itself, participants will likely have to arrive at the venue earlier to cater time for testing before attending the event.
If the testing is conducted at a separate testing facility, participants will have to visit a separate testing facility beforehand.
They will then be required to produce a valid certificate showing a negative result within a 24-hour timeframe before being allowed to enter the event.
Less invasive test
While Singapore currently uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests to confirm Covid-19 cases, such tests will take about one to two days to yield results.
Therefore, antigen rapid tests (ARTs) will instead be used for pre-event testing, which can return "fairly accurate" results within half an hour.
ARTs involve using a nasal swab to take a sample from the lower part of the nose, and should not be uncomfortable, according to MTF.
The downside, however, is that ARTs will only pick up 80 per cent of individuals who are infected with Covid-19, and will show a result of 3 per cent false positives in healthy individuals.
Such rates minimally meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) recommendation of at least 80 per cent for sensitivity and 97 per cent for specificity.
As there is a possibility that a Covid-19 case could slip through the test to attend the event, there is still a need for safe management measures like mask-wearing, safe distancing, group size and capacity limits.
Those who test positive under the ART will have to go through a confirmatory PCR test.
As Singapore currently has a low prevalence of Covid-19 cases, MTF expects most ART positive cases to be false positives (i.e. the patient does not actually have Covid-19).
Successful pilots will lead to widespread use
One such event that will pilot pre-event testing is the Singapore International Energy Week, which takes place next week.
MTF said that they will gather feedback from event organisers and participants to fine-tune the processes.
If the pilots prove successful, the government will make its next move by assessing how to make these tests available for more widespread use.
Top image by Alasdair Elmes on Unsplash