Rare glimpse inside one of government quarantine facilities
Kitted out with an N95 face mask, gloves, a hairnet, shoe covers, and a gown, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) medical officer enters the first floor room.
Two other SCDF officers wearing face masks and gloves wait outside, and within a minute, the officer wearing full personal protective equipment reappears with a test kit in hand.
Handing over the kit, he drops his used gloves into a bio-hazard bag, disinfects his hands, dons a new pair of gloves and re-enters the room.
Yesterday, reporters were given a rare glimpse inside one of the government quarantine facilities (GQF) for the novel coronavirus outbreak, the National Community Leadership Institute (Nacli) in South Buona Vista Road. We were allowed to observe from afar an SCDF team taking test swabs from a family under quarantine.
The team of three, led by a medical officer, were one of five such teams taking swabs from those who returned home from Wuhan on Sunday morning.
The 174 passengers were screened upon arrival at Changi Airport and those who were well have been quarantined for two weeks in five different GQFs across the island.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who also observed the swabbing operation, later told media there were 34 returnees housed in Nacli.
"The team here has been here all day. It is a quite a process."
All those under quarantine are swabbed twice - once after they are in a GQF and once before they are released.
A sample of mucus is taken from the back of the nose using a long cotton swab, which is then cut and placed in a tube containing a transport medium that keeps the samples fresh.
Those who test positive for the coronavirus are referred to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
The five medical officers deployed yesterday included full-time national servicemen and were supported by volunteers from SCDF's regular force.
Mr Shanmugam said he appreciated that many people stepped forward. "It has to be done and we really appreciate (it)."
He added that Home Team officers on the front line of the outbreak have put in tremendous effort, with many working around the clock.
"It's been a big strain on all the officers... It is not going to be possible to carry on at this pace for a long time," he said.
"We have to look at how to make it sustainable."