Total of 43 Changi Airport workers have tested positive for Covid-19; source likely worker who helped infected family from South Asia

The tests were carried out after the emergence of a cluster of Covid-19 cases at the airport. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A total of 10 airport workers - out of almost 19,000 swabbed - have tested positive for Covid-19 in a special testing operation after the emergence of a cluster of cases at Changi Airport.

The tests were carried out from May 9 to May 20, and all the infected workers are from Terminal 3, with workers from Terminal 1 and Jewel Changi Airport testing negative.

Apart from the 10 airport workers, 33 other workers had tested positive through other channels, such as when they reported sick or when they were serving quarantine orders.

In all, 43 airport workers have tested positive for Covid-19 so far, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) on Friday (May 21).

The two agencies gave the figures in an update on measures taken at Changi Airport to deal with the growing number of cases linked to the airport's Covid-19 cluster, which is currently the largest active one here with 104 cases as at Friday.

They said test results for an initial batch of Covid-19-positive airport workers were found to be similar and indicated the B1617 virus variant that was first detected in India. This suggests that their infections came from a common source.

"Preliminary investigations indicate that the initial transmission could have occurred through an airport worker who was assisting a family from South Asia, who arrived in Singapore on 29 April, 2021 and were subsequently found to be positive for Covid-19 through their on-arrival tests," said the two agencies.

CAAS and CAG did not say which country the family was from.

The agencies said that since Thursday, workers in Terminal 3 Basement 2 who tested negative for Covid-19 in their first test have been rostered to take an additional test.

From Sunday (May 23), airport workers in higher-risk roles will be required to take an additional antigen rapid test (ART) between their seven-day rostered routine tests.

Passengers from very-high risk places must also now undergo an ART on arrival, on top of the usual polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

"The quicker turnaround time of an ART compared to a PCR test will allow for public health action to be taken more quickly for persons who test positive by ART," said CAAS and CAG.

The two agencies said they will work with the aviation community to vaccinate more workers in the next few weeks. More than 90 per cent of front-line aviation workers have been vaccinated so far.

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CAAS and CAG reiterated that precautions are in place at the airport to guard against Covid-19.

For example, workers handling flights from the highest-risk countries wear full personal protective equipment. Most of the cases among airport workers were detected early - cases peaked around May 13, with very few cases among airport workers subsequently. None of the airport workers who tested positive is in serious condition, requires oxygen or is in the intensive care unit.

Since this month, the airport has further segregated passengers arriving from low-risk places from other passengers.

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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.

Passenger terminals at Changi Airport and Jewel will remain closed to the public until the end of the phase two (heightened alert) period on June 13 as an added precaution.

During the closure, airport workers will be briefed about the new measures and requirements, CAAS and CAG said.

But the airport remains open for air travel, they added.

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