Airline crew to undergo more frequent tests after 2 SIA crew members down with Covid-19

CAAS in consultation with MOH, will further tighten the measures for air crew of Singapore carriers with immediate effect.
CAAS in consultation with MOH, will further tighten the measures for air crew of Singapore carriers with immediate effect.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Crew members of Singapore carriers will have to undergo stricter Covid-19 control measures with immediate effect following the news of a Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew member and an SIA pilot testing positive for the coronavirus.

Announcing this on Wednesday night (Dec 30), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said it was tightening measures to ensure the safety and well-being of air crew and to safeguard public health in Singapore.

"Air crew face considerable risks in the course of their duties. They do so because it is critical for Singapore to maintain air connectivity. Many essential supplies, such as vaccines, can only be delivered by air. Singaporeans overseas and other essential travellers need to be able to travel to and from Singapore," said CAAS in a statement.

The first case, a cabin crew member, tested positive on Dec 27. He had last flown to New York on SQ24 on Dec 12, and returned to Singapore on Dec 16 aboard SQ23.

He was asymptomatic at the time and was tested on Dec 23 and 25 under the testing protocol for Singapore carriers' air crew when they return from overseas. Both tests were inconclusive but an additional test on Dec 27 returned positive.

CAAS said its preliminary investigation showed that the man had adhered to the mandated in-flight and layover measures, including wearing a mask, minimising contact with passengers and locals, and staying in his hotel room.

During the layover in New York, he interacted with the immigration officer and hotel check-in staff and collected his meal from a hotel staff who delivered it to his room.

All crew members and 16 passengers who were seated in the section of the aircraft cabin served by him have tested negative.

The second case, a pilot, tested positive on Dec 29. He had last flown to London on SQ322 on Dec 19 and returned to Singapore on Dec 22.

He was tested on Dec 23 and received a negative result on Dec 25. But on Dec 26, he developed a fever and went to a clinic for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on Dec 27, which returned positive on Dec 29.

CAAS said its preliminary investigation showed that the pilot had adhered to the same mandated in-flight and layover measures as the first case. He also had no contact with passengers on board the flight.

During the layover in London, he interacted with the immigration officer and hotel check-in staff and also collected his meal from a hotel staff who delivered it to his room.

CAAS said that after consulting with the Ministry of Health, it will now require air crew on layover to further minimise their contact with locals.

For example, food delivered through room service should be left outside the room at the door instead of being handed over.

Those who lay over in high-risk destinations will be required to undergo a PCR tests on arrival and on the third and seventh day following their return to Singapore.

Crew members will be required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from their seventh-day PCR test.

In addition, crew travelling to and from South Africa will have to don full personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks, face shields, protective gowns and gloves.