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Government to waive swab test costs for construction workers until August

SINGAPORE — The Government will waive the cost of swab tests for construction workers until August this year, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) announced on Wednesday (May 27).

Government to waive swab test costs for construction workers until August

SINGAPORE — The Government will waive the cost of swab tests for construction workers until August this year, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) announced on Wednesday (May 27).

These are for those involved in all construction works that are allowed to resume before August.

Renovation works in residential units and building works for single dwelling landed properties are the first types of projects that are allowed to resume after June 1, when the circuit breaker that put a stop to most economic activities ends.

But employers must first seek BCA’s approval to start work and then arrange for their workers to undergo Covid-19 testing. The authority will only approve the applications if the personnel have been tested negative.

BCA will contact eligible companies to arrange for their employees to be tested, and approvals for the resumption of work may be withdrawn if workers miss their regular testing.

In addition, those involved in building works for landed residential properties will have to undergo swab tests once every two weeks. S-Pass and work permit holders involved in renovation works will also be required to undergo swab tests once every two weeks.

TODAY has asked BCA how much each swab test costs. Construction companies that were interviewed said that it costs around S$200.

Mr Johnny Lim, the executive director of Teambuild Construction Group, told TODAY that having to manage the cost for the swab test is definitely a concern since it was not anticipated at the time of tender and no budget has been set aside for it.

However, Mr Kenneth Loo, the executive director of Straits Construction, said that the swab test waiver will not help much since most site work is expected to resume only in late July or August.

“Effectively, this relief is only for a short period. If this requirement (for fortnightly swab tests) is to continue for a long time, then the burden is tremendous,” Mr Loo added.

BCA also said in a media statement that it would prioritise previously suspended residential renovation works that started before April 7 to resume.

Mr Hugh Lim, chief executive officer of BCA, said: “We understand that homeowners are looking forward to the completion of renovation works, and also building works for landed properties, especially those who are waiting to move into their new homes.”

However, works have to resume gradually in order to safeguard the health of the workforce and the safety of homeowners and the community at large, he said.

Suspended renovation works in other types of buildings, new renovation works and new building works for landed residential properties will resume or start in a later phase.

Beyond August, the Government will work out arrangements on how the cost of Covid-19 testing should be shared among different parties.


Besides the cost of swab tests, construction companies approached by TODAY also said that they are worried about other challenges, such as the availability of tests and the cohorting of workers.

Mr Nelson Tee, managing director of CHH Construction System, said: “What if there aren’t enough tests and my workers can’t get tested? Does it mean they have to stop working?”

Mr Akbar Kader, managing director of Nan Guan Construction, is also concerned about the impact that the regulations will have on his company.

Normally, he said, construction projects would involve several groups of sub-contractors performing different roles such as plumbing or mechanical and electrical works, and they would work on various work sites in a single day.

However, employers will need to implement cohorting to separate workers based on the projects that they are working on, which would be difficult to achieve with these sub-contractors, Mr Akbar said.

Besides swab test costs, another pressing concern for construction companies is the extra time they would need to complete their projects, which might incur extra costs, Mr Lim from Teambuild Construction said.

“There is a committed time frame allocated for the completion of each project,” he said. “The manpower cost, preliminaries cost, overheads, machinery and equipment rental cost that were allowed for at the time of tender would be overrun if the project is delayed.”

Another concern, Mr Lim said, is whether his firm can still get enough workers once the project restarts, and “whether our sub-contractors and suppliers survive the business lockdown”.

Besides the fortnightly swab tests, other measures have been put in place as work is resumed:

  • All personnel must download the TraceTogether application on their phones by June 1 for contact tracing

  • Companies must have the SafeEntry application operating at workplace premises to record all entries and exits

  • Strict safe management measures must be enforced

  • Companies will need to appoint safe management officers or safe distancing officers, or both

  • Companies will need to provide dedicated transport between work sites and workers’ accommodation

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BCA Covid-19 coronavirus construction workers swab test

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