It was smooth sailing for the first batch of China-bound passengers leaving Changi Airport yesterday, after the Chinese Embassy in Singapore imposed stricter requirements on travellers flying to the country.
All 47 travellers on Air China Flight CA 768 to Hangzhou at 4.18pm had the necessary paperwork and no one was turned away from boarding.
The Chinese Embassy last week said that starting yesterday, people travelling from Singapore to China must take a Covid-19 test within five days before their flight and test negative for the coronavirus.
It did not designate specific institutions where the test can be taken, but said travellers can choose any hospital or clinic listed on the Health Ministry's website.
Among those flying to China yesterday was Singaporean Michelle Liew, 56, who was travelling for business as well as personal reasons. Her husband - an Australian who is a Singapore permanent resident - went to China on a business trip in February and has been stuck there since. The couple run a technology and research firm together.
Said Dr Liew: "This is primarily a business trip, but it is also a reunion for us. (The emotional factor) is that I really want to see my husband."
Under the latest Chinese Embassy rules, passengers who test negative for Covid-19 must e-mail their test result to the embassy, together with a scanned copy of a signed health declaration form and a photocopy of the bio page of their passport. It will take at least one working day to verify the documents. More details can be found on the embassy's website.
Dr Liew said she was able to book a slot to take the swab test at a Raffles Medical clinic in Changi Airport Terminal 3. "It was a bit of a rush when they informed us of the new measures last week and time was very tight... but the clinic's service was professional and it was very smooth," she said.
Chinese national Cui Li Qing, 42, said he was in a rush to get home due to a family emergency. Mr Cui, who works in the construction sector and has been in Singapore for about three years, said his company paid for his Covid-19 swab test.
Ms Zhang Yan, 38, also a Chinese national, said her company not only paid for her swab test but also for her plane ticket home. She was at the airport with a former colleague, Ms Tang Yun, 20.
Ms Zhang was working at local food chain Old Chang Kee for the last six years, and just left her job to return to China for good.
She said in Mandarin: "I'm very grateful that Old Chang Kee made these arrangements... I was worried that I would not be able to board this flight for whatever reason, or that they would cancel the flight. But now I'm here, I'm very relieved."
Some passengers took their own safety precautions.
A 26-year-old former researcher from the National University of Singapore turned up at the airport yesterday decked out in personal protective equipment, complete with goggles and latex gloves.
The Hangzhou native, who declined to be named, said he bought the protective outfit especially for the flight. "It's a bit troublesome and quite hot in this isolation suit, but there's no choice, I have to protect myself," he said.
The Transport Ministry and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, in a joint statement yesterday, said passengers departing for China on or after next Tuesday should approach the relevant agencies to arrange a pre-departure Covid-19 test within five days of their flights.
The authorities had made special arrangements for passengers on China-bound flights departing from yesterday to Monday to be tested at a regional screening centre at the former Shuqun Secondary School in Jurong East.