Changi Airport to segregate flight arrivals

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Changi Airport will segregate flights and passengers from high-risk countries and regions from those arriving from low-risk places, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said yesterday.

Flights arriving from high-risk regions will be assigned different piers. Passengers on these flights will use different arrival immigration halls, baggage belts and toilets from those arriving on flights from low-risk countries or regions.

Passengers on flights from “very high-risk countries” will be escorted through the airport and have their on-arrival COVID-19 tests done at separate health screening stations.

“This will reduce the degree of interaction with other passengers and staff,” CAAS said in a media release. CNA contacted the aviation authority on which countries and regions are classified as high risk or very high risk.

The move comes after it was discovered that about 20 cases in the cluster of infections at the airport had been “quite congregated” around an area that receives travellers from higher-risk regions.

Speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference on Friday, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said: “This is the zone with a finger pier that receives higher-risk country arrivals, including (from) South Asia, and then the conveyor belt and immigration.

“And from that zone, workers go have their lunch, go have their meals at the Terminal 3 Basement 2 commercial areas and the food court, and we suspect from there, it transmitted to members of the public that visited the place.

Visitors at Singapore’s Changi Airport. PHOTO: XINHUA

“The cluster at Changi Airport has now grown to a total of 59 cases – Singapore’s largest active cluster. The first detected case in this cluster is an 88-year-old cleaner with Ramky Cleantech Services who was confirmed to have COVID-19 on May 5.

Of the 59 infections in the cluster, 35 are airport workers.

“None of the cases are in serious condition, require oxygen or are in the intensive care unit,” CAAS said.

CAAS said additional measures will be taken to further protect airport workers. “We are putting in place cohorting arrangements to reduce the risk of airport workers becoming infected,” the authority said. “Different groups of airport workers will have separate rest areas, and work teams will be ringfenced from other work teams. Those working in higher-risk areas will have their meals delivered to them.”

A special COVID-19 testing operation for airport workers has been under way since May 9, with workers in Terminals 1 and 3, as well as Jewel Changi Airport, required to take tests. Terminal 2 has been closed since May 1.

Close to 10,000 workers have been tested so far, with the vast majority of tests coming back negative, CAAS said.

The testing operation will be extended to cover office workers in Changi Airport passenger terminal buildings, with about 8,000 workers to be tested in the coming days.

“Subsequently, all airport workers in higher-risk roles will be placed on a seven-day rostered routine testing cycle, regardless of their vaccination status,” CAAS said.

“This is a step-up from the current 14-day cycle.”

To date, 90 per cent of frontline aviation workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19.