Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan performed an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) on himself, for a video published on his Facebook page this week, in a bid to demystify the testing process.

Singapore is preparing to allow large-scale events and open its borders to overseas travellers soon and is set to use ARTs to test for COVID-19 among large groups. Unlike the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, which is more accurate but takes a number of days to reveal if an individual has COVID-19, the ART system is designed to deliver test results within minutes.

In the Facebook video, which was put up on Thursday (22 Oct), Dr Balakrishnan said that his aim was to “Show you how quickly and I would say, reasonably conveniently, how [the test] could be done.”

The ART test involves three components: a swab stick, a cartridge and a simple timer. The ruling party politician showed that the first step is to insert the swab stick about 2.5cm into one’s nose and twirl the swab stick five times to collect enough mucus and cells before removing the stick, inserting it into the other nostril and repeating the process.

Noting that you do not have to go “all the way back” unlike the procedure in a full nasopharyngeal swab, Dr Balakrishnan said that the cell collection portion of the ARTs may be uncomfortable but should not be painful.

Next, the swab stick must be inserted into a liquid reagent and swirled around in the liquid for about 15 seconds to dislodge the mucus. The container must be capped shut, with a click, and shaken thoroughly.

The individual administering the test must then squeeze three drops of the liquid into the receptacle’s pool and start the timer. The ink in the reader will rise to reveal two lines – one at the “C” mark (control) and another at the “T” mark (test). Once the timer goes off, the receptacle can be inserted into an analysis machine which will display the results of the test.

Watch Dr Balakrishnan’s tutorial in full here: