Changi Airport to segregate travellers from high-risk locations to stem Covid-19 spread

The cluster at Changi Airport is currently the largest. Airport workers have been infected and the worry now is the leakage of hidden cases into the broader community. Here‘s a look at how the virus took off from Ground Zero of the airport.

SINGAPORE - Travellers arriving at Changi Airport from high-risk regions will be segregated from people coming from places with a lower-risk profile.

They will be assigned a different pier from the ones used by people coming from places with a lower Covid-19 risk profile, and also use different arrival immigration halls, baggage belts and toilets from those arriving from lower-risk areas.

If they are flying in from very high-risk areas, they will be escorted at all times as they move around the airport. These travellers will also have their on-arrival Covid-19 testing done at separate health screening stations.

The latest precautions come as Changi Airport becomes the largest active Covid-19 cluster here, with a total of 59 cases as at Friday (May 14). 

Workers infected with Covid-19 at Changi Airport were mainly working in one zone that received travellers from higher-risk regions, including South Asia, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday.

He said that the airport identified this trend after studying the 20-plus initial infections in the airport cluster.

Also, about 8,000 office workers at Changi Airport's passenger terminal buildings will be tested over the next few days as part of an ongoing special testing operation to contain the spread of Covid-19.

In a statement on Saturday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said almost 10,000 airport workers have been tested since the operation started on May 9, of which 35 have tested positive for the virus.

However, none of these workers are in serious condition.

In response to media queries, CAAS said it has adopted a multi-layered approach based on the risk profiles of passengers since March last year.

Passengers from very high-risk regions were already being processed separately from all other arriving passengers since that time. But since early this month, passengers arriving from low-risk regions have been further segregated from all other arriving passengers. Since transit resumed in June last year, those in transit are also guided to a transfer holding area separated from other passengers.

Eventually, all airport workers in higher-risk roles will be placed on a seven-day rostered routine testing cycle, regardless of their vaccination status. This is a step up from the current 14-day cycle.

CAAS added that many of those who tested positive had eaten at outlets at Terminal 3 Basement 2, which has been closed since May 10 for cleaning and disinfection.

The cleaning and disinfection operation has now been completed for Kopitiam and a FairPrice supermarket there, and a thorough review of the outlets' hygiene practices and safe management measures is in progress.

Cleaning and disinfection are also ongoing at Jewel, and similar operations will be extended to the transit areas where airport workers were suspected to have been infected.

Members of the public who had visited Changi Airport Terminal 3 from May 1 will be offered free Covid-19 testing and are strongly encouraged to take this test.

The Ministry of Health will progressively inform these individuals via SMS notification with details on how to book an appointment for the test.

CAAS said: "In our ongoing fight against Covid-19, we have called upon the airport community to do their part to help contain the spread of the virus.

"Airport workers have been reminded to exercise social responsibility, minimise social interactions, and are encouraged to get vaccinated and tested to protect themselves and their loved ones.

"We recognise the contributions, dedication and sacrifices that the men and women of the airport community have given to keep our airport safe, while ensuring that Singapore remains connected to the world."