Smooth boarding for China flight after initial scramble for tests

Passengers checking in for Scoot Flight TR100 to Guangzhou early yesterday morning at Changi Airport Terminal 1. Despite a rush for Covid-19 tests after the Chinese Embassy announced new rules on Aug 21, requiring travellers from Singapore to China t
Despite a rush for Covid-19 tests after the Chinese Embassy announced new rules on Aug 21, Scoot Flight TR100 to Guangzhou proceeded smoothly. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Passengers headed to Guangzhou early yesterday morning 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 yesterday.

When asked if all passengers were allowed to board, Scoot would say only 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 last Tuesday. They were instructed to go for the test at the regional screening centre located at the site of the former school in Jurong East 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.

Mr Ren said in Mandarin before entering the departure hall yesterday: "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 is time to go back."

Another Chinese couple said they took the test last 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. Mr He said: "The testing process was very smooth. I think Singapore did very well."

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 last Tuesday after reading about the requirement online.

The 34-year-old said: "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 and has booked a flight, she added.

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

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2020, with the headline Smooth boarding for China flight after initial scramble for tests. Subscribe