Tighter measures needed amid new strains

It was rather worrying to read about the large increase in coronavirus cases among passengers, following a recent return flight from the United Kingdom (UK), considering the risks that the new and highly transmissible UK and South African strains pose, and given that the South African strain has recently been detected in the UK with British experts noting substantial changes in the structure of the proteins.

Are the local authorities considering heightening the safety and security measures?

In light of these new strains, many countries have cancelled flights to and from the UK and South Africa, and a number of them now placing greater restrictions on travellers coming from these two countries.

With these new strains having seemingly longer incubation periods, Hong Kong has extended the quarantine period from 14 to 21 days for UK travellers.

Singapore, meanwhile, has cancelled all visas for transit and long-term pass holders with a recent travel history to the UK.

With these strains being far more transmissible, airline crews and frontline workers – customs officials and baggage handlers – as well as hotel quarantine staff, drivers and cleaners may not now be at a greater risk of catching and transmitting these strains within the wider community.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health recently reported that a number of hotel quarantine staff as well as its national carrier’s pilot and a cabin crew member had returned positive serology tests.

According to infectious disease experts, the national carrier’s current measures may not be sufficient, and a revision has been put forward.

Changes such as the implementation of a 14-day stay-at-home notice for air crews travelling from high-risk countries and more regular testing of all airline crew, frontline workers and hotel quarantine staff have been suggested.

In light of this, Singaporean authorities announced recently that it would be tightening measures to ensure the safety of airline crews and to safeguard public health.

Some of these measures will include PCR tests for crews flying to and from high-risk countries.

In some Australian states, hotel quarantine staff are now tested at the start of every shift, including a nose swab on the first day of their roster and saliva testing every other day.

In December 2020, with an increase in positive cases among returned travellers, the coronavirus escaped the Sydney hotel quarantine safety and security measures at least four times, with drivers transporting air crews and passengers, as well as cleaners, testing positive.

The local authorities have done a terrific job throughout last year in containing and controlling the coronavirus spread.

However, as we’ve just entered 2021, this coronavirus is continuing to evolve and worldwide cases are continuing to increase.

In considering these challenges, along with the recent increase in the number of positive cases in returned travellers to Brunei, it may be prudent for the authorities to further heighten the COVID-19 safety and security measures to keep the citizens and residents safe.

A Concerned Resident