Workers go for Covid-19 tests on first day of Changi Airport's closure to the public

A steady stream of airport workers returned to Changi Airport for their Covid-19 swab tests on May 13, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Notices about the airport's closure to the public were pasted on the doors. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Changi Airport turned silent on the first day of its closure to the public, even though there was a steady stream of airport workers returning for their Covid-19 swab tests.

A few shoppers, unaware of the temporary closure of Jewel and restricted access to the terminal buildings, showed up. But they were turned away.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) had announced on Wednesday night (May 12) that they would allow only some workers and travellers to access the airport terminal buildings for two weeks from Thursday.

Jewel would be closed during this period too.

The closure comes as the authorities embark on a massive Covid-19 testing of airport workers following a surge in the number of Covid-19 daily cases linked to a cleaner at the airport.

CAAS and CAG said they will continue to review and adjust measures as needed. This includes extending the closure if necessary.

When The Straits Times visited the area around Terminal 3 on Thursday morning, a few people were seen walking around inside in full personal protective equipment.

The departure hall was largely empty, except for a handful of people with their luggage.

The entrance to the link bridge at Terminal 3 connecting to Jewel was manned by a security guard, who scanned passes presented by workers before letting them through.

Meanwhile, the usual access to Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 via the underground bus stops was closed off.

Notices about the airport's closure to the public were pasted on the doors. Those looking to enter the airport were asked to enter via the visitor pass office.

At Terminal 3, even airport staff were not allowed to leave or enter through the usual exit to the bus bay.

The closure of the doors to the bus bay at Terminal 3 created confusion among several airport staff, many of whom were reporting for their Covid-19 swab tests.

A few workers who came to the airport by bus waited outside the doors without avail for a security officer seated inside to let them in. Another worker who wanted to go to the MRT station was similarly confused.

A steady stream of airport workers returned to Changi Airport for their Covid-19 swab tests on May 13, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

They eventually made their way into the airport through a side entrance which led directly to the station.

On this route, which spans about 20m, access to the rest of Terminal 3 was cordoned off with metal barriers.

Airport staff were also deployed in front of the escalator leading up from the MRT station. Everyone, except workers or travellers, was denied access.

Madam Nordah Jaafar, 64, who works at one of the stalls in the Terminal 3 Kopitiam foodcourt where Covid-19 cases have visited, said she is worried about her income now that she is unable to work for two weeks.

She was at the airport waiting to head to Terminal 4 for her Covid-19 swab test.

"I will have to talk to my boss then see how... lucky my husband and son are both working," she said.

A few members of the public were seen trying to enter Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 during the time that ST was there. Those who were trying to enter Terminal 1 said they wanted to go to Jewel Changi Airport either for lunch or to shop.

One shopper wanted to go to the Apple store in Jewel. The shopper, who declined to be named, said: "I was quite surprised, I had thought it would open as it is a public holiday today."

Mr Stanley Koh, 61, who works in the air cargo sector, was disappointed to find the doors to Terminal 3 closed. The Tampines resident had regularly visited the airport to pass time.

"I heard about the cases, but I thought it was isolated to just a part of the airport, so I wanted to come here to pass time," Mr Koh said in Mandarin. "This seems serious... but I don't think it's useful at this stage, the government should have closed the borders earlier."

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