Forum: Lack of safe distancing on plane

Singapore has conscientiously implemented safe distancing measures, from hawker centre seats marked out with conspicuous red crosses of masking tape to the number of mats in yoga classes being dramatically reduced.

Enforcement officers and safe distancing ambassadors have been deployed to ensure people comply with Singapore's safe distancing measures.

But who is policing the skies?

I recently travelled from London back to Singapore with Singapore Airlines. I was more than a little surprised to discover that the flight was full. On a plane that seats 253 passengers, there were hardly any empty seats on board.

When, with equal measures of curiosity and concern, I asked a staff member whether any measure of distancing could feasibly be implemented at such capacity, the answer was that there was no requirement imposed on the airline to ensure any minimum distance between passengers.

The usual amount of space, or lack thereof, in economy class is familiar to most. In the row directly behind me sat three passengers, all strangers to one another - a Singaporean student returning home, a young Australian woman transiting through Singapore and an elderly woman on her way to Malaysia. It's safe to say they were not from the same household, and had they attempted to have a meal together in a hawker centre, such proximity would not be acceptable.

On the 11th day of my compulsory stay-home notice and one day after I was tested for Covid-19, I received a call from the Ministry of Health. One person who sat near me and two in total on the same flight had tested positive for the virus.

I can't say the news was unexpected.

Which leads me to this question: Are all air carriers exempt from the safe distancing measures on the ground?

While the image of empty planes perched desolately in the Australian desert makes the commercial need to fill up seats certainly understandable, this situation also highlights a serious loophole that the government task force should take steps to examine and address.

Koh Rui Zhen

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