Antigen rapid tests piloted for quicker detection of COVID-19 among migrant workers


SINGAPORE: The authorities have begun piloting the use of antigen rapid tests to more quickly detect COVID-19 among migrant workers who undergo rostered routine testing.

This pilot by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of Health (MOH) began on Oct 18 and will run for a month.

MOM said on Sunday (Oct 25) that migrant workers are currently tested every two weeks using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The antigen rapid test will be used as an additional test on the seventh day to complement the PCR test on the 14th day. 

Antigen Rapid Testing pilot Oct 25, 2020 (1)

Antigen tests can return results within half an hour, as compared to PCR tests which take at least a day. (Photo: Ministry of Manpower)

Antigen tests can return results within half an hour despite being less accurate, as compared to PCR tests which take at least a day.

A total of 1,000 migrant workers from SCM Tuas Lodge dormitory are involved in the pilot. 

“Migrant workers who test positive can be isolated immediately and conveyed to a medical facility for a confirmatory PCR test,” the ministry said, adding that this reduces the risk of infection transmission to fellow residents.

READ: ’Multi-layered’ strategy in place to detect, contain new COVID-19 cases in migrant worker dormitories: MOM

This will also result in fewer close contacts who will need to be quarantined, thus minimising work disruptions for both workers and employers.

MOM said the Assurance, Care and Engagement (ACE) Group, in consultation with MOH, will evaluate the effectiveness of the rapid test pilot and assess its suitability to be incorporated into the rostered routine testing.

READ: Work pass privileges of 2 employers suspended after failing to arrange COVID-19 testing for workers

READ: MOM introduces more targeted COVID-19 quarantine approach for foreign worker dormitories

Workers staying in dormitories, those in the construction, marine and process sectors, and all those who go into work sites are required to undergo rostered routine testing for COVID-19 every 14 days.

Earlier this month, it was announced that more COVID-19 regional screening centres and testing facilities in dormitories would be set up to facilitate rostered routine testing.

Night swabs are also offered at four facilities – Acacia Lodge, Cassia @Penjuru, Central Staff Apartments and Westlite Mandai – to accommodate workers’ work cycles.

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