ICA taps videoconferencing to reduce contact with travellers

Officers will only step in physically to help travellers where required. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Officers helping arriving air travellers to complete immigration documentation will now talk to them through videoconferencing, instead of in person.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has put this and other precautions in place, after an outbreak of Covid-19 at the airport.

ICA told The Straits Times on Friday (May 21) that the videoconferencing option applies to officers who check travellers' SG Arrival Card application and electronic health declaration card.

This process, which is completed before immigration clearance over the counters, was previously handled by officers wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) and carrying iPads.

Officers will now use the iPads to conduct video calls with travellers, thus minimising physical contact with them.

Officers will only step in physically to help travellers where required, said ICA.

"This initiative will mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission while they perform their duties amidst the pandemic."

There are now 104 cases linked to the airport cluster, including four ICA officers working at Terminal 3.

ICA said it has worked with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to put in place more regular Covid-19 testing of its officers. It is also working with Changi Airport Group to install better shields at the manual counters to protect officers.

They have also worked together to repurpose the space outside the sky train stations as an additional waiting area. This will prevent crowding in arrival halls, said ICA.

It added that there has been other existing precautions in place, such as encouraging officers to get vaccinated and increasing the use of protective equipment.

On whether vaccination would affect a worker's deployment, ICA noted that majority of the jobs in ICA are on the front line.

"ICA officers, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, have to be rostered for front-line deployment," said ICA.

However, it may deploy unvaccinated officers in slightly lower risk areas, such as at the departure hall, said ICA.

Food court operator Kopitiam, which also has a branch in Terminal 3, said it also has taken precautions such as increasing the cleaning frequency of the outlet.

Meanwhile, the Transport Ministry said it has stepped up refresher training courses on wearing and taking off PPE for drivers taking arriving travellers in buses and Maxicabs to stay-home notice facilities.

It has also increased the physical distance between the drivers and the travellers on such trips. Travellers are also spaced apart more on buses.

MOT added that drivers transporting passengers are vaccinated against Covid-19. They also operate dedicated vehicles.

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