Jitters among Hougang HDB block residents as Covid-19 testing continues on second day

SINGAPORE – When Mr Jason Ng received messages from his friends on Thursday (May 20) night that all residents in his block would have to take a mandatory Covid-19 test, he thought it was fake news.

Mr Ng, 50, a private-hire driver, said: “There is so much fake news these days, who knows if it’s real or fake any more.”

It was only after he received SMS messages from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Promotion Board on Friday morning that he knew it was a fact.

MOH said on Thursday that all residents of Block 506 Hougang Avenue 8 will be tested for Covid-19 at the void deck of the block on Friday and Saturday, after some residents of the 12-storey block were found to have tested positive for Covid-19.

This was the first time an entire block of residents – 116 households in all – have undergone mandatory Covid-19 testing as a precautionary measure.

Last July, 58 households were offered testing after nine Covid-19 cases were detected in Block 111 Tampines Street 11.

The Straits Times visited the block in Hougang on Saturday morning, the last day for the testing that took place from 9am to 4pm.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were administered in four enclosed stations by Health Promotion Board (HPB) staff in full personal protective equipment (PPE).

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh dropped by at about 10am and spoke to staff and residents there. He and fellow Aljunied GRC MP Gerald Giam had done the same on Friday. Mr Giam is the MP for the ward the block is in.

Residents ST spoke to said they were worried after hearing about the news and have taken more safety precautions.

Ms Lily Chin, 52, a traditional Chinese medicine clinic assistant, learnt about the testing on Friday morning through messages from her aunt.

She said: “I was shocked. I didn’t think the whole block would be affected. At first, I thought the situation was okay, but it seems to be getting more serious. People around me also seem to be getting more nervous.”

She added that her colleague, who was initially hesitant to take the Covid-19 vaccine, immediately signed up to take the jab after news of the mandatory swab test and rising number of Covid-19 cases.

Ms Chin, who was supposed to work on Saturday and Sunday, also swopped shifts with her colleague as residents who have taken their tests are advised to remain at home until the results are out.

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh dropped by at about 10am and spoke to staff and residents there. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

This was the first time an entire block of residents have undergone mandatory Covid-19 testing as a precautionary measure. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Mr Yip Kok Thong, 21, a Malaysian chef who lives with his older brother and four friends in a four-room unit, said: “I’m worried that if the situation gets worse, I can’t go to work, can’t earn money and can’t go back home.”

Ms Nur Faiezah, 31, a network engineer, decided to take extra precautions after reading about the news online on Thursday night.

She decided to order groceries online instead of going to the market on Friday morning, although some items, such as potatoes, were out of stock.

She took the PCR test with her family at 9.30am, although her allocated time slot was around 11am. The four of them had received different time slots for the swab test, and her husband did not receive an SMS notification.

She said: “I thought that if we go down as a household, the exposure is less as compared with going at different times.”

A notice on the walls at lift lobbies on Saturday morning informed residents that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council would be misting disinfectants in common corridors and lifts from 4pm on Saturday.

The notice said: “Some noise, smell and smoke are expected during the misting. To prevent chemicals from entering your unit, please close your windows and doors when the misting is carried out.”

ST has contacted MOH for updates on the progress of the testing exercise.

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