Labs here working at over 80% capacity as number of Covid tests jumps
Demand has surged significantly amid rise in Covid-19 testing
Laboratories in Singapore are operating at more than 80 per cent capacity to meet the recent demand for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests amid the surge in Covid-19 testing.
As at May 25, there are 27 laboratories that conduct Covid-19 tests in Singapore and can do up to 70,000 tests daily, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.
They support the PCR testing requirements in the hospitals, clinics, regional screening centres (RSCs), dormitories and all testing operations mounted for active case finding, and screening purposes.
Many also support Covid-19 serological testing, which looks for antibodies in a blood sample to determine if it is a past infection.
In a reply to queries from The Straits Times, MOH said: "The utilisation of total lab capacity has significantly increased as well, from about 30 per cent to 40 per cent prior to the recent clusters, to over 80 per cent in early May 2021."
The ministry said the Government has been steadily building up the national capacity to conduct tests for Covid-19.
From an average of 2,900 PCR tests a day in early April last year, it has ramped up lab capacity to conduct between 60,000 and 70,000 tests a day from this January.
Private labs ST reached out to said demand has surged significantly.
Dr Daniel Tan, chief executive officer of Parkway Laboratories, said the daily average number of swabs received in the past two weeks was almost double that from a month ago. He declined to reveal figures.
The lab, which comes under IHH Healthcare Singapore, currently processes swab tests for more than 200 general practitioner clinics, four IHH Healthcare hospitals, some nursing homes, prisons and migrant worker dormitories.
Innoquest Diagnostics said it has been receiving 15,000 to 20,000 swabs on average daily since May 17, a threefold spike from the 5,000 to 7,000 received on average daily in April.
Innoquest Diagnostics processes Covid-19 swab tests for more than 500 general practitioner clinics, a few private and public hospitals as well as swabbing sites.
Its chief executive Ginny Foo said the increased workload may delay swab test results for clinically urgent cases from six hours to up to 12 hours.
MOH said those swabbed as part of rostered routine testing in the community do not need to self-isolate while waiting for the result of their PCR test.
However, those who present with symptoms of acute respiratory infection (ARI) to medical clinics, polyclinics, emergency departments or are referred to designated RSCs, are required to take both the antigen rapid test (ART) and PCR swabs.
They will be issued with at least a three-day medical certificate (MC) and be required by law to stay home for the duration of their MC, or until they receive a negative Covid-19 swab test result, whichever is sooner.
"During the period of their MC, they should only leave their home to seek medical attention if necessary," said the ministry.
It added that individuals will generally receive their test results within 24 hours of their swabs, "but this may be longer based on lab capacity and testing demands".