Singapore's largest active Covid-19 cluster: How it all began

The Covid-19 cluster at Changi Airport has swelled to more than 100 people in less than a month. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - The first hint of trouble arose when an 88-year-old cleaner working at Changi Airport's Terminal 3 developed a cough and runny nose. The man went to see a doctor on May 4, and tested positive for the virus the next day.

Subsequent cases flowed in thick and fast, and the virus did not discriminate.

Among those it infected: An 18-year-old student who had visited Terminal 3's food court at the same time as two other cases. A 66-year-old passenger escort officer. A married couple - one an aviation officer, the other a coffee shop worker.

A total of 43 airport staff have been found to be infected so far. Most worked in a Terminal 3 zone that received passengers from higher-risk countries, and would have visited eateries in the building.

This is believed to be how the virus spread to members of the public.

Nearly 19,000 front-line workers and airport office staff were subsequently tested for the virus, and Terminal 3's main cleaning contractor, Ramky Cleantech Services, was also put on a 14-day safety time-out after several cases were detected among its employees.

Last Wednesday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) announced that all airport passenger buildings and Jewel Changi Airport would be closed to the public for two weeks.

Since then, the authorities have also put in place stricter rules on how airport workers can congregate, including separate dining and rest areas for different groups.

More than 90 per cent of front-line aviation workers have been vaccinated so far, with CAAS and CAG saying they will work with the aviation community to vaccinate more workers in the next few weeks.

Starting tomorrow, workers in higher-risk roles will also have to take an additional antigen rapid test between their seven-day rostered routine tests.

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