Singapore passengers cleared to board Scoot flight to Guangzhou after Covid-19 test scramble

Passengers check in for Scoot flight TR100 to Guangzhou, on Aug 30, 2020, at Changi Airport Terminal 1. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Passengers headed to Guangzhou early Sunday morning (Aug 30) appeared to have no issues boarding Scoot Flight TR100 despite having had to scramble to undergo last-minute Covid-19 tests after the Chinese Embassy announced new requirements.

No passenger was turned away from the 5.15am flight when The Straits Times visited Changi Airport at around 2am on Sunday. When asked to confirm if all passengers were allowed to board, Scoot would only say that the flight departed with 254 passengers and two infants.

Earlier in the week, scores of anxious passengers with a seat on the Scoot flight, as well as other China-bound flights, had turned up at the former Shuqun Secondary School to be tested for Covid-19.

This came after an Aug 21 announcement by the Chinese Embassy- that from Aug 28, all travellers from Singapore to China will have to take a Covid-19 test within five days of their flight to ensure they are free of the coronavirus.

Passengers booked on Flight TR100 were alerted to the new requirement in an urgent e-mail sent by Scoot on Aug 25.

They were instructed to go for the test at the regional screening centre located at the site of the former school in Jurong East, between 9am and 10.30am on Wednesday.

Passengers had to also declare that, in the last 14 days, they did not have a fever at or above 37.3 deg C, and had not been in contact with patients with a fever or respiratory symptoms, among other things.

Chinese national Ren Peng Ju, 30, who has lived in Singapore for the past 10 years, took the test.

Mr Ren, who works in the manufacturing sector, said his company bore the cost of his Covid-19 test.

Passengers taking the test at the centre must pay $186 before their test results can be released to them.

He said in Mandarin before entering the departure hall on Sunday: "I went for the test on Wednesday after receiving the e-mail but everything went pretty smoothly. I was actually quite thankful for the arrangements and am glad to be going home."

The Shandong native added that he was returning to China for good, with plans to start his own business there.

"The coronavirus affected (the manufacturing sector) pretty badly in terms of jobs and salary. China has been developing well, there are more opportunities there and I think it's time to go back."

Another Chinese couple said they took the test on Thursday upon receiving Scoot's e-mail.

Mr He Jian Bing, 36, who works in advertising, had to bear the cost himself. But his wife, who is in the electronics industry, said her company paid for hers.

Said Mr He: "The testing process was very smooth. I think Singapore did very well."

After testing negative for Covid-19, passengers had to e-mail the test result together with a scanned copy of a signed health declaration form and a photocopy of the biodata page of their passport to the Chinese Embassy.

The embassy previously said that it will take at least one working day to verify the documents.

Some passengers said they heard about the Chinese Embassy's new requirements before Scoot sent out its e-mail.

Designer Jasmine Chen, a China national and Singapore permanent resident, said she made arrangements to take the Covid-19 test at Mount Elizabeth Hospital on Tuesday after reading about the requirement online.

Said the 34-year-old: "I read about it online, it was quite last-minute and inconvenient but I managed to get the test done in time."

Mrs Chen, who has a Singaporean husband, said she is going back to China to visit family. She will return in about two months' time and has booked a flight, she added.

Singapore and China had announced in June a "fast lane" agreement that allows people from both sides on business or official travel to fly into each other's countries without serving a quarantine period of up to 14 days.

The first China-bound flight after the new rules kicked in - Air China Flight CA768 to Hangzhou - made the trip from Singapore earlier this week on Friday with 47 passengers on board.

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