Photo credit: JOYCE CHAN

What happens when you are sent to NCID for COVID-19 tests?

Here's a step-by-step guide of what to expect when you are sent to NCID.

Nigel Chin

Published: 19 February 2020, 9:57 PM

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus 2019) has dominated news headlines lately, and most conversations about it have been about the rising number of cases and mortality rates around the world.

Not much, however, has been discussed about the actual procedure of going through the screening process at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).

That is what made Joyce Chan, a 31-year-old financial consultant who was sent to the NCID for a screening as a potential suspect case, put up a Facebook post detailing her entire experience from Friday (14 Feb). Her post, which was accompanied by a series of screenshots from her Instagram stories, has been shared more than 8000 times.

“I’m grateful that I am able to help spread this positivity. Right now, there are a lot of negative news and paranoia,” Joyce told Youth.SG. “I actually did the insta-stories to update my mum and colleagues via Instagram. Then, my colleagues encourage me to post this on Facebook, just so people know what the process is like and can be more assured after reading it.”

Joyce shared that her entire process from visiting the Raffles Medical clinic in Bishan to being discharged from the NCID took less than four hours.

Visit to GP Clinic in the morning

Joyce had been coughing during her trip to Taiwan and returned to Singapore at about 12.40am on 14 Feb. As she wanted to err on the side of precaution, and also to give assurance to her parents and travel mates, she decided to make a quick visit to the clinic.

After registration, Joyce was placed inside an isolation room where a doctor came to check on her eventually – instead of having to enter the doctor’s room, to prevent her from coming into contact with other patients.

But because of her travel history and prolonged cough, the doctor suggested for her to be sent to NCID immediately. While Joyce offered to make the trip down to NCID on her own, the doctor said that she had to be sent in an ambulance instead, after consulting with an advisor from the Ministry of Health.

Communication during this time was also made via an intercom system, so as to prevent the number of contacts the doctor had with her.


Joyce was placed in a isolation room so to prevent her from contacting others unnecessarily. PHOTO CREDIT: JOYCE CHAN


Joyce was ushered into the back of the ambulance by paramedics dressed in full personal protective equipment.

The paramedics, after ensuring that Joyce was comfortable, took their seats at the front of the ambulance and left Joyce alone at the back – again, to prevent any contact between Joyce and them.

“That was a very well thought-out process, I feel,” Joyce shared.

Upon reaching NCID

When Joyce arrived at NCID, she was directed immediately to a queue for her registration.

Patients were also told to stand on red crosses that were marked out on the floor. There was a gap left in between each cross, so to prevent anyone from being too close to another patient, minimising the opportunities for contact.

Joyce said that she was also provided with a different type of mask to help her breathe better, and that there was always a staff with her at all times at the NCID to guide her through the process, and provide assurance to patients who were either feeling scared or nervous.

“It was all very foolproof. Honestly, anybody who is there will know what’s going to happen next because they kept us updated at every step of the way,” said Joyce.


Markings that indicated where each patient should stand while queuing were place on the floor at NCID.


After registration, patients at the NCID were directed to the triage area.

At the triage, the nurse will re-measure everything, including your blood pressure and temperature. Patients will also be asked about their medical and travel history again, and if they think they had come into contact with anyone who might have contracted the virus.

Waiting place for tests

Patients were then moved on from the triage area to a hall with plenty of tables and chairs set out like an examination hall. Each patient was then allocated to a desk and chair, where they will wait for the tests.

Joyce said a nurse actually came over and accompanied her to the area for her chest x-ray, and brought her back to the desk.

“There’s really no contact with anyone and you aren’t allowed to wander around. You can only remain seated at your desk,” Joyce explained. She added that the staff at NCID had been super patient and were super attentive to the patients. One even asked her if she had her breakfast, and when Joyce said no, they brought her a bowl of porridge.

“It was really nice. They actually noted the time that I went to the clinic, and asked me if I had my breakfast already since I was already at the clinic since nine plus,” said Joyce.


Joyce posted about her experience on Facebook because she wanted to let others know that they do not need to worry unnecessarily. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/JOYCE CHAN


Discharging from NCID

After her chest x-ray came back clear, Joyce was given the green light to be discharged and did not need a swab, as she had no contact with anyone in the past month who might have the COVID-19.

A nurse escorted her through the discharge process, until the moment she stepped out of the centre. That was done to prevent Joyce from coming into contact with other patients. In total, she spent about two hours at the centre.

Joyce added that on her way out, she realised that there were staff whose sole job are to sterilise the tables and chairs.

“That was what I was most impressed with, because then the staff wouldn’t lose focus and get distracted by other tasks that might have more priority,” she said.

She added that having been a police officer for six years previously, she knew to stay calm, despite the need to go to NCID for tests to see if she had the virus.

“Of course, I was worried for a bit, but because of my training as a police officer, I know that our government has very good protocols in place and they alleviated my worries,” she said. “Of course, I’ve also been in the back of an ambulance plenty of times during my previous career, so it was nothing to be alarmed about.

“With such dedicated medical professionals and good systems and processes in place, I have full confidence that Singapore can handle this situation well. Now, more than ever, is the time to seek treatment if you are feeling unwell, instead of potentially passing the virus on to others.”

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