SINGAPORE: A Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew member who tested positive for COVID-19 after working on a turnaround flight to the UAE did not interact with any infected passengers on the flight, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Friday (Feb 12).
But she may have come into close contact with cleaners who came on board the aircraft during the turnaround in Dubai, CAAS said in response to CNA's queries.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the cabin crew member had tested positive for the B117 strain following a turnaround flight from Dubai. She did not disembark from the aircraft, it added. The flight departed Singapore on Jan 30 and returned on Feb 1.
Four other passengers on the flight back to Singapore also tested positive for COVID-19, said MOH.
CAAS said the cabin crew member flew to Dubai serving in business class with no passengers.
"For the flight to Singapore, she was positioned as a passenger and sat with the rest of the crew at the back of the aircraft, with their own area and dedicated toilet," said CAAS, adding that she did not interact with any infected passengers on board the aircraft.
"However, during the turnaround in Dubai, cleaners came on board the aircraft, and she may have come into close contact with them."
CAAS said it has since tightened requirements for turnaround flights to disallow cleaners and other "non-essential" personnel from entering the aircraft during the turnaround.
"If interaction with ground staff is necessary, crew will have to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)," CAAS added.
READ: SIA cabin crew member might have been infected on flight, 4 passengers also tested positive for COVID-19: MOH
Responding to CNA's queries, SIA said it disinfected the plane's surfaces using approved disinfectant, in line with its cleaning procedures for its aircraft.
"All soiled linens were cleaned at high temperature to sanitise them, high touchpoint areas in the lavatories and overhead bins in the cabin were coated with anti-microbial coating, and a fresh set of linens and headsets were provided for the passengers of the next flight," said the airline.
SIA said it also performed "electrostatic spraying" to disinfect the cabin.
"We continue to be guided by the relevant health authorities to ensure the well-being of our customers and staff members," it added.
SINGAPORE CARRIERS' CREW MEMBERS EXEMPTED FROM STAY-HOME NOTICE
As with all crew members of Singapore carriers, the crew member who tested positive for COVID-19 was not required to be put on stay-home notice upon arrival in Singapore.
"Instead, we work with the Ministry of Health to put in place stringent policies to protect air crew and minimise their risk of exposure to COVID-19 during their duty on board aircraft," said CAAS.
These measures include minimising interaction between crew members and passengers, and wearing PPE at all times.
"This is the same approach as for workers in other sectors who could also come into contact with COVID-19 cases in the course of their work, such as healthcare workers," CAAS added.
Asked about the number of passengers aboard the flight and their current status, SIA said it does not comment on "commercially sensitive" information and are working with the authorities on any contact tracing that might be required.
The airline added that there were 18 cabin crew members and four pilots who flew on that flight.
"The cabin crew member’s co-workers have been isolated and placed on quarantine, as per the standard operating procedures," said SIA.
"We will work with the authorities on any contact tracing that might be required."
On whether the cabin crew members aboard the flight had been inoculated against COVID-19, SIA said: "We are unable to comment on specific individuals for privacy reasons."
Overall, it said more than 90 per cent of the eligible SIA Group staff members, including cabin crew members and pilots, have signed up for the COVID-19 vaccine and been progressively receiving their jab since "late January".
According to SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong, 85 per cent of the staff members who signed up to be vaccinated have received their first dose.
He said this while speaking to the media on Thursday, when three flights operated by the group's carriers - SIA, budget airline Scoot and regional carrier SilkAir - took off with all pilots and cabin crew vaccinated against COVID-19.