Full protective gear, routine testing for Changi Airport front liners

Move comes after two airport workers at Terminal 3 tested positive for Covid-19

In an exclusive interview, news editor Karamjit Kaur sits down with Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung to get his thoughts on the opening of Singapore's borders and the air travel bubble with Hong Kong.

Staff at Changi Airport who come into close contact with passengers - such as swab assistants - will have to don full personal protective equipment (PPE) at work and be tested for Covid-19 every two weeks.

About 2,500 airport workers have already been tested for Covid-19 so far since last week, all with negative results. Another 1,000 or so more workers will be tested in the coming days, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.

The move comes after two workers at Changi Airport Terminal 3 were reported last Saturday to have Covid-19.

One is a T3 security officer who had gone to work before testing positive. The other is a screener and swab assistant at Raffles Medical at T3 who had gone to work before testing positive.

The two had not interacted with each other, and investigations had not established any link between them, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said last week.

"As travel volume is expected to pick up in the coming months, MOH has been in discussion with relevant agencies to ramp up rostered routine testing of front-line staff working at Changi Airport," it said then.

Mr Ong told The Straits Times that both these workers had "come into close contact with passengers". Contact tracing is under way to identify those deemed to be close contacts. While both had worn face masks and gloves, Mr Ong said: "I think that is not enough, so we are going to tighten up the process."

He said staff at the airport will be put on rostered routine testing similar to front-line workers and migrant workers.

"For workers who come into close contact with passengers, they should don full PPE.


ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

"Changi Airport Group will also step up the frequency of cleaning and disinfection."

Full PPE includes equipment such as gloves, gowns, caps and goggles.

More details about the safety precautions are expected to be released in the coming days.

The authorities have tested several groups of workers in recent months as part of efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

For example, around 11,000 people working in public bus depots and interchanges were screened for Covid-19 following the discovery of an infection cluster at Bukit Panjang's transport centre. This included all bus drivers as well as employees such as administrative staff.

Airport staff taking the temperature of a traveller checking in for a flight at Changi Airport Terminal 1 earlier this month. Staff at the airport will be put on rostered routine testing similar to front-line workers and migrant workers.
Airport staff taking the temperature of a traveller checking in for a flight at Changi Airport Terminal 1 earlier this month. Staff at the airport will be put on rostered routine testing similar to front-line workers and migrant workers. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Mr Ong said the Government takes the situation at Changi Airport very seriously, and will draw on its experience to address it.

"When we were dealing with the spreading of the virus in the dormitories and in Singapore Expo, we did have workers who got infected," he said.

"But very quickly, we went on a tighter regime, took the necessary precautions and we saw the last of those infections. We have to do the same thing in Changi now."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2020, with the headline 'Full protective gear, routine testing for airport front liners'. Subscribe