SINGAPORE: Changi Airport's passenger terminals as well as Jewel will remain closed to the public until the end of the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period, while all arrivals from "very high-risk" countries and regions will undergo additional COVID-19 testing.
This was announced by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Changi Airport Group (CAG) in a joint media release on Friday (May 21), amid efforts to stem a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, including a cluster at the airport.
One hundred cases have been linked to the Changi Airport COVID-19 cluster since the first case there was detected on May 5. Authorities said last week that a number of those cases were congregated around a zone that receives travellers from higher-risk regions, including South Asia.
On Friday, CAAS and CAG said that the initial transmission could have started from an airport worker who assisted a family from South Asia who arrived in Singapore on Apr 29.
ADDITIONAL TESTING FOR HIGH-RISK ARRIVALS
All passengers arriving at Changi Airport from very high-risk countries or regions will now have to undergo on-arrival antigen rapid tests (ART) in addition to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests they currently take, said CAAS and CAG.
The new testing regime took effect on Thursday.
“While an ART is less sensitive than a PCR test, it provides an additional layer of screening,” CAAS and CAG said.
“The quicker turnaround time of an ART compared to a PCR test will allow for public health actions to be taken more quickly for persons who test positive by ART.”
Last week, CAAS told CNA that the list of countries and regions within each risk category - low-risk, high-risk or very high-risk - may change with the evolving global COVID-19 situation.
"Examples of low-risk countries/regions are those that we have unilaterally opened to, while examples of very high-risk countries/regions are those that we have disallowed short-term visitors from entering Singapore," a spokesperson said.
Singapore has suspended entry to long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to India since Apr 24. This includes those who transit in India.
Such pass holders and visitors with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have also been barred from entering or transiting in Singapore since May 2.
From Sunday, airport workers in higher-risk roles will also be required to take an additional ART between their seven-day rostered routine tests.
As of Thursday, about 19,000 frontline workers and office workers at Changi Airport passenger buildings and Jewel have been tested for COVID-19 in a special testing operation which began on May 9.
“All workers at Changi Airport Terminal 1 and Jewel have tested negative for COVID-19; 10 workers from Terminal 3 were tested positive,” CAAS and CAG said.
“Out of an abundance of caution, all airport workers who were working around T3 Basement 2 who had tested negative for COVID-19 in their first test have been rostered to take an additional COVID-19 test since May 20, 2021 - these results are pending.”
A total of 43 airport workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the recent outbreak as of Thursday, including the 10 infections found during the special testing operation.
"Cases peaked around May 13, with very few cases among airport workers subsequently," CAAS and CAG said, adding that "none of the cases are in serious condition, require oxygen or are in the intensive care unit".
More than 90 per cent of Singapore's frontline aviation workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
READ: Community transmission occurred as COVID-19 virus breached safety measures; no country can seal itself off totally: MOH
JEWEL, PASSENGER TERMINAL CLOSURES EXTENDED
Changi Airport’s passenger terminal buildings and Jewel have been closed off to the public since May 13. They were scheduled to reopen after two weeks.
While additional cleaning and disinfection of Changi Airport’s passenger terminal buildings and Jewel have been completed, they will remain closed to the public until the end of the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period on Jun 13 "as an added precaution", said CAAS and CAG on Friday.
“During this closure period, airport workers will be briefed and trained on the new measures and requirements, to allow the new measures and safety protocols to be implemented smoothly,” CAAS and CAG said.