SINGAPORE: Changi Airport will segregate flights and passengers from high-risk countries and regions from those arriving from low-risk places, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said on Saturday (May 15).
Flights arriving from high-risk regions will be assigned different piers. Passengers on these flights will use different arrival immigration halls, baggage belts and toilets from those arriving on flights from low-risk countries or regions.
Passengers on flights from "very high-risk countries" will be escorted through the airport and have their on-arrival COVID-19 tests done at separate health screening stations.
“This will reduce the degree of interaction with other passengers and staff,” CAAS said in a media release.
CNA put in queries to the aviation authority on which countries and regions are classified as high risk or very high risk.
In response on Saturday night, CAAS told CNA that the list of countries and regions within each risk category 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.
CAAS also said in a separate response that it has been adopting a multi-layered approach based on the risk profiles of the passengers since March last year.
Since March last year, passengers arriving from very high-risk countries and regions have been processed separately from all other arriving passengers to minimise mixing of passengers, it said.
More recently, since early May this year, CAAS has further segregated passengers arriving from low-risk countries and regions from all other arriving passengers, it added.
Additionally, since transit and transfer resumed in June last year, such passengers have been guided to a transfer holding area within Changi Airport and separated from other passengers, it said.
"The protocols and processes in place are continuously reviewed," said CAAS.
READ: First 20 Changi Airport COVID-19 cases from zone that receives arrivals from higher-risk countries, says Ong Ye Kung
The new move comes after it was discovered that about 20 cases in the cluster of infections at the airport had been “quite congregated” around an area that receives travellers from higher-risk regions.
Speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference on Friday, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said: “This is the zone with a finger pier that receives higher-risk country arrivals, including (from) South Asia, and then the conveyor belt and immigration.
“And from that zone, workers go have their lunch, go have their meals at the Terminal 3 Basement 2 commercial areas and the food court, and we suspect from there, it transmitted to members of the public that visited the place.”
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.
Those with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have also been barred from entering or transiting in Singapore since May 2.
The cluster at Changi Airport has now grown to a total of 59 cases - Singapore's largest active cluster. The first detected case in this cluster is an 88-year-old cleaner with Ramky Cleantech Services who was confirmed to have COVID-19 on May 5.
Of the 59 infections in the cluster, 35 are airport workers.
“None of the cases are in serious condition, require oxygen or are in the intensive care unit,” CAAS said.
ENHANCED PROTECTION FOR AIRPORT WORKERS
CAAS said that additional measures will be taken to further protect airport workers.
“We are putting in place cohorting arrangements to reduce the risk of airport workers becoming infected,” the authority said.
“Different groups of airport workers will have separate rest areas, and work teams will be ringfenced from other work teams. Those working in higher-risk areas will have their meals delivered to them.”
A special COVID-19 testing operation for airport workers has been under way since May 9, with all workers in Terminals 1 and 3, as well as Jewel Changi Airport, required to take tests. Terminal 2 has been closed since May 1, 2020.
Close to 10,000 workers have been tested so far, with the vast majority of tests coming back negative, CAAS said.
The testing operation will be extended to cover office workers in Changi Airport passenger terminal buildings, with about 8,000 workers to be tested in the coming days.
“Subsequently, all airport workers in higher-risk roles will be placed on a seven-day rostered routine testing cycle, regardless of their vaccination status,” CAAS said.
“This is a step-up from the current 14-day cycle.”
To date, 90 per cent of frontline aviation workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19. CAAS said operations are being stepped up to vaccinate the remaining 10 per cent, as well as other essential aviation workers.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTION ONGOING
The cleaning and disinfection of the Kopitiam and NTUC FairPrice outlets at Terminal 3's Basement 2 have been completed, and the outlets’ hygiene practices and safe management measures are currently being reviewed.
“Cleaning and disinfection are also ongoing at Jewel Changi Airport,” CAAS said.
"In addition, we will extend cleaning and disinfection operations to the transit areas, in particular, those areas where airport workers were suspected to have been infected.”
Changi Airport’s passenger terminal buildings and Jewel are closed to the public until May 27.
FREE TESTING FOR VISITORS
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it will offer free testing for members of the public who visited Terminal 3 from May 3 onwards. It later extended the free testing to those who visited the terminal from May 1.
"MOH will progressively inform these individuals via SMS notification with information on how to book an appointment for their test," CAAS said.
MOH has also advised those who visited Terminal 1 and Jewel from May 1 onwards to monitor their health closely for 14 days from their date of visit and see a doctor if they are unwell.
"They are strongly encouraged to visit a regional screening centre or Swab and Send Home Public Health Preparedness Clinic for a free COVID-19 test if they feel unwell," the ministry said.