Jewel Changi Airport reopens to public; over 2,500 workers have tested negative for Covid-19

Jewel Changi Airport reopened on Monday, after a month-long closure to stem the spread of a Covid-19 cluster. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - More than 2,500 workers have been tested for Covid-19 at Jewel Changi Airport, which reopened on Monday (June 14) after a month-long closure. All the test results were negative.

Close to 90 per cent of eligible staff have also taken at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the mall management said on Monday.

To help businesses affected by the closure, full rental waiver will be extended by another week, from Monday to Sunday, said Ms Hung Jean, chief executive of Jewel Changi Airport Development.

Additional rental assistance will also be given to tenants for the week of June 21 to June 27. Jewel did not say how much additional assistance it will provide.

Said Ms Hung: "We are cognisant that it will take time to ramp up footfall at Jewel as Singapore cautiously moves into Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) with a gradual easing of restrictions."

Precautionary measures have also been stepped up. This includes the purging of air-conditioned air two hours before opening hours.

During the closure period, thorough cleaning and disinfection of the premises, including tenanted spaces, was carried out, although no Covid-19 cases were detected at Jewel.

Visitors - mostly families with young children - started arriving as shops and eateries in the mall began to open at about 10am.

While the spectre of the recent Covid-19 outbreak at Changi Airport that led to the month-long closure continues to linger on the minds of some business owners, customers who spoke to The Straits Times were assured by the measures put in place to prevent another outbreak.

Mrs Chua Zi Yun, 30, who was at Jewel with her husband and their two sons, age three and one, said it was the same as visiting any other shopping mall.

"They have already cleaned the place and sanitised everything and it is not open to the terminal buildings where they are receiving foreigners, so I think it is quite safe," said the civil servant.

"It is a good place for the kids to run around, so that's why we are here even though we live in the west. I figured there wouldn't be a lot of people today since it is the first day (of reopening)."

Mrs Chua added: "If we just do our part, wear our masks and do not go too close to other people, I think we will be fine."

A technician who wanted to be known only as Mr Raemi, 52, was at the mall on his day off with his wife. He shared the same sentiments.

"(The closure) was for the common good. It needed to be done. I'm not worried. I believe the authorities have done a thorough deep cleaning," he said.

Mr Raemi added that he and his wife had been looking forward to Jewel's reopening and had travelled from their home in western Singapore to the mall.

"We do enjoy our time here. There are not many places where you can have the luxury of space and (have everything) under one roof."

Some tenants, such as burger joint Shake Shack, were encouraged by the initial turnout on Monday and expect sales to pick up over the weekend.

Others, however, said they foresee business to be slow given the continued ban on dining in and the dearth of tourists at the mall.

Some tenants, such as burger joint Shake Shack, were encouraged by the initial turnout on Monday and expect sales to pick up over the weekend. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Additional rental assistance will be given to tenants for the week of June 21 to June 27, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Besides stepping up its precautionary measures, Jewel is also offering free parking from 10am to 11pm daily to attract visitors. The mall is open 24 hours, but most shops operate from 10am to 10pm.

Shake Shack Singapore's operations director Cami Soh said the free parking, which will last until July 11, will go some way towards getting people back into the mall and is also good for deliverymen.

While she could not share any sales figures, Ms Soh said she was happy with how the first day of reopening had gone.

"Initially, we thought that people would be afraid of coming to Jewel after the outbreak, but we are seeing crowds... We think we will do even better over the next few days," she added.

Ms Soh said she expects sales to pick up even further once dining in is allowed to resume. This is slated to take place from June 21.

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Mr Mark Shaw, director of Shaw Organisation, which operates the Shaw Theatres chain, said what has hurt the firm's bottom line is the lack of concession sales due to the ban on dining in.

He added: "All cinemas are very dependent on selling soft drinks and popcorn. Obviously we're slightly disappointed that (dining in) hasn't reopened together with the theatres, (but) we are quite confident that Jewel's management and their marketing teams will be on point and get it out there that Jewel is open for business."

Caerus Holding, which manages local outlets of Luke's Lobster and confectionery chain Lady M, said sales have slowed as it was not only hit by Jewel's closure but also by the temporary closure of Westgate, where it has a Lady M outlet.

Said its chief operating officer Geraldine Liew: "While we're definitely glad about the declining community cases and the return of dining in, we do foresee lower mall traffic."

Jewel was shut on May 13 along with Changi Airport Terminals 1 and 3 to stem the spread of a growing Covid-19 cluster that originated from Terminal 3.

Visitors at Jewel Changi Airport on June 14, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
People playing at the Manulife Sky Nets in Jewel Changi Airport's Canopy Park on June 14, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The risk of a further outbreak at the airport, and at Jewel, appears to have abated as the most recent cases linked to the T3 cluster tested positive on May 22 - more than three weeks ago.

In all, 108 people, including 43 airport workers, were infected.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Changi Airport Group (CAG) said last Friday that deep cleaning and disinfection of Jewel and the passenger terminals was completed and new safety measures segregating 14,000 airport workers into three distinct zones based on risk level are in place.

The airport's passenger terminal buildings will remain closed to the public to allow the airport community to adjust to the new zoning system, the authorities had said.

​Some businesses at the passenger terminals and Jewel told The Straits Times earlier this month that they have adapted to disruptions brought on by the pandemic in the past year, such as by reducing the number of staff at the airport and switching to online sales.

Some have settled for just covering their costs as they await a recovery in air travel.

The full rental waiver provided by CAG during the period of closure, as well as the Government's additional wage support from April to this month, has provided much-needed relief.

The manager of a food and beverage outlet at Jewel said on Monday that he was glad to reopen after being forced to close for the past month.

The 35-year-old, who declined to be named, told ST that the sudden closure of Jewel last month led to a week's worth of inventory going to waste.

While the outlet was able to do deliveries and takeaways during the eight-week circuit breaker last year, they were not able to do so during the month-long closure of Jewel, leading to an 80 per cent fall in sales.

The F&B outlet has had to run on a lean team of just five people for fear of another closure or lockdown.

Reopening brings with it another set of challenges - ensuring patrons comply with safe distancing measures, he said. Still, the manager was glad to be back at work.

"For us tenants, at least there is something for us to do now instead of staying at home," he said.

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