Pre-event rapid testing rolled out in Singapore

Industry welcomes move to trial on-site Covid-19 testing in an effort to spur return of large-scale events.

A mixture of PRC and ART swab tests will be used throughout the trial period, which will include consultation with event planners.
A mixture of PRC and ART swab tests will be used throughout the trial period, which will include consultation with event planners. Photo Credit: Getty

As business events slowly return to Singapore, a pilot programme for pre-event Covid-19 testing will be introduced this month to identify a model that can be widely implemented to support the safe return of large-scale meetings and events.

In an announcement made by Singapore's Minister for Health, Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday (20 October), the pilot will run from mid-October to December 2020, where attendees of selected events (including business events, weddings, live performances, and sports events) will be tested either at the event venue or at a separate testing facility, and only participants who have tested negative will be allowed to participate in the event.

"The pilots will enable the Ministry of Health to trial pre-event testing processes to identify different models that can be implemented more widely," he said. "We will gather feedback from event organisers and participants to fine tune these processes. If these pilots prove successful, we will assess how to make these tests available for more widespread use."

The Singapore International Energy Week, set to take place in a hybrid format at the Sands Convention & Exhibition Centre next week (26-30 October), will be one of the first business events to implement pre-event testing.

This is on top of existing Safe Management Measures that include contact tracing via QR codes, and maintaining a one-metre distance between physical attendees. 

The move follows calls from UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and SISO, the Society for Independent Show Organizers, urging policymakers to implement rapid testing protocols to replace industry-crippling quarantine measures. 

The Lion's City's MICE stakeholders have also embraced the announcement, which comes on the back of recent news of a prospective Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble and the upcoming TravelRevive event prototype, which will test 'green lane' travel arrangements for international MICE visitors.

Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) president and CEO of SingEX Holdings, Aloysius Arlando, said the association "is heartened by the progressive effort made towards a safe resumption of events".

He added: "The pre-event testing to be done at pilot events is another showcase of public and private sectors shoring up confidence in a joint effort to the safe reopening of Singapore’s events."

Similarly, Christopher McCuin, managing director of Montgomery Asia, which organises large-scale trade shows such as Specialty & Fine Food Asia, said: "This innovative thinking from the Singapore government is exactly what is needed to help restart this world-leading MICE industry.

"B2B events and exhibitions can already be organised in a safe and secure manner following the recently announced Event Industry Resilience Roadmap and SG SafeEvent Standard, but right now anything that can help build consumer confidence and add another level of health and safety for all stakeholders can only be a good thing."

Swab, scan and enter — the new event shuffle?

The pre-event testing pilot will include a mix of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests and Antigen Rapid Tests (ARTs), which will be conducted free of charge. Both tests involve using a nasal swab to take a sample from the lower part of the nose and, while PCR is considered the 'definitive' test for Covid-19, ARTs produce much faster results, usually within 30 minutes.

Participants will be informed by the event organiser on the specific requirements for each pilot event. For example, if the testing is conducted at the event venue prior to admission, participants will likely have to arrive at the venue earlier to cater time for testing before attending the event.

If testing is conducted at a separate testing facility, participants will have to visit a separate testing facility beforehand and produce a valid certificate showing a negative result within a 24-hour timeframe from the end of the event, before being allowed to enter the event. 

Presumably, testing will require additional management on behalf of the event planner. But, for Montgomery Asia's McCuin, this isn't a problem.

"We, as organisers, are all waiting at the traffic lights, poised and ready, to help kickstart the economy. Let's turn the lights green and get started," he said.