Covid-19 Cluster At Singapore’s Changi Airport

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All the 9,000 or so employees at Singapore’s Changi Airport will get an extra swab in the next day or two to figure out the extent of a Covid-19 cluster that has sprung up at the airport.

Eight employees have tested positive for Covid-19, including an 88-year-old cleaner, of which six have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

Here’s an excerpt from the Straits Times:

Airport workers turned up at Changi Airport on Monday morning (May 10) for a special Covid-19 testing operation for about 9,000 workers, to find hidden cases.

This comes after four workers were reported to have Covid-19 on Sunday (May 9), bringing the cluster at Changi Airport to eight.

All workers at Changi Airport’s operating terminals will be tested, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) on Sunday night.

Vaccinated front-line airport workers, who were earlier placed on 28-day rostered routine testing, will now be tested every 14 days instead.

Six of the eight people linked to the Changi Airport cluster are fully vaccinated.

Here’s the press release from CAAS:

Changi Airport Steps Up Precautionary Measures

1. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG), in consultation with the Ministry of Health (MOH), are stepping up measures to strengthen our defence against COVID-19. Our frontline workers at the airport have been doing their best to secure Singapore’s borders while ensuring that Singapore stays connected to the world even during the pandemic.

2. However, the occurrence of eight COVID-19 cases at Changi Airport over the last ten days is worrying. Whilst 92% of frontline aviation workers have been vaccinated, the risk of infection remains.

Special Testing Operation and 14-Day Rostered Routine Testing

3. All workers in Changi Airport’s Terminals 1 and 3 (Terminal 2 is not operating), as well as in Jewel Changi Airport, will undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test in a special testing operation starting 9 May 2021, to quickly detect, isolate and treat any potential COVID-19 cases in the airport community. About 9,000 workers will be tested.

4. To allow for early detection of any new cases, all vaccinated frontline airport workers who have earlier been placed on a 28-day Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) cycle will now be placed on a 14-day cycle.

Closure of Changi Airport Terminal 3 Basement 2 to Public

5. Changi Airport Terminal 3 Basement 2 (T3 B2) will be closed to the public temporarily with effect from 10 May 2021, pending MOH’s epidemiological investigations. T3 B2 is of particular concern as several of the COVID-19 cases had visited outlets there.

6. Other than deep cleaning, staff working in these food and beverage (F&B) and retail outlets also need to be tested negative for COVID-19 before the outlets are allowed to reopen to serve any customers. All F&B outlets in T3 B2, when reopened, will only be allowed to provide take-aways to airport staff. Dining-in will not be allowed, except in special allocated areas for airport workers who are unable to consume their meals in their place of work.

7. CAAS and CAG will work with affected companies to minimise the impact of these arrangements on their staff and airport operations. Rental rebates will be provided to affected tenants to provide financial support. CAG will be reaching out directly to affected tenants.

Additional Measures for Specific Companies

8. The main cleaning contractor for Changi Airport Terminal 3 will be placed on a safety time-out for 14 days with effect from 10 May 2021, following the detection of four COVID-19 positive cases amongst its cleaners. During this period, the contractor will be required to conduct a full safety review, complete refresher training for their cleaners, and reinforce segregation arrangements at work for their cleaners to minimise mixing. It will resume cleaning of Terminal 3’s public areas when all these requirements have been met and all its staff have tested negative for COVID-19.

9. The airport’s main security service provider will also be stepping up its Safe Management Measures (SMMs) given the discovery of two COVID-19 cases amongst its airport staff. It is reinforcing training and pre-operations briefings for its frontline staff at the airport, for example, to emphasise the correct donning and doffing procedures for personal protective equipment (PPE) and SMMs in the airport.

10. These additional precautionary measures are on top of the existing SMMs in the airport, which will continue to be enforced strictly. All workers and travellers are required to comply strictly with SMMs whilst in the airport. For example, all workers are required to use the appropriate PPE required for their jobs and work areas. In particular, those who come into close contact with inbound travellers from high-risk countries/regions are required to wear full PPE comprising face masks, face shields or goggles, gloves, shoe covers and medical gowns. The frequency of disinfection and cleaning at the airport has also been increased.

11. Given the evolving nature of COVID-19, the measures will continually be reviewed and strengthened as necessary.

Conclusion

Six of these eight cases were with fully vaccinated employees that likely had an asymptomatic infection, not including the 88-year old that had a runny nose and some coughing. Why this older person was working in the first place, should the person have retired a decade or two ago?

This cluster just proves that there will be Covid-19 cases with fully vaccinated to catch if you test enough.

I am not sure how countries and tourists will handle it this summer when borders are opening up?

You may be fully vaccinated but test positive for the Covid-19 that destination, transit, airline, or returning home requires. Are you going to be forced to quarantine for 10 to 14 days before you can continue your journey?

My PCR-RT test back in mid-December came back as positive after having the Covid-19 in Brazil in early November and recovered (read more here). I am sure that there will be plenty of tourists and travelers in for a surprise.

What will happen with the Singapore – Hong Kong Travel Bubble that set to start, for the second time, in about two weeks’ time (read more here).

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