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Some Changi Airport T3 staff likely infected by same source carrying B1617 strain; Jewel, passenger terminals to shut longer

SINGAPORE — Some workers from Changi Airport Terminal 3, who were among the first to test positive for Covid-19 from the cluster there, likely caught the coronavirus from a common source.

Departing passengers at Changi Airport Terminal 1 wearing personal protective equipment on May 14, 2021.

Departing passengers at Changi Airport Terminal 1 wearing personal protective equipment on May 14, 2021.

  • Some airport workers are likely to have the B1617 coronavirus strain
  • They are likely to be infected from a common source, traced to another airport worker who was in contact with incoming travellers
  • So far, a total of 43 airport staff members have tested positive for Covid-19
  • Changi Airport’s passenger terminal buildings and Jewel will remain closed for longer until June 13
  • No one from Terminal 1 or Jewel who were tested have the virus

 
SINGAPORE — Some workers from Changi Airport Terminal 3, who were among the first to test positive for Covid-19 from the cluster there, likely caught the coronavirus from a common source. 

Results have shown that they have the B1617 strain of the coronavirus first identified in India. Early investigations suggest that the first transmission may have occurred through an airport worker who helped a family from South Asia when they arrived in Singapore on April 29.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Changi Airport Group (CAG) said in a joint statement on Friday (May 21) that the family members were later found to have contracted the coronavirus after doing their on-arrival tests.

“Further investigations by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the CAAS are ongoing,” the statement read.

As an added precaution, the airport’s passenger terminal buildings and Jewel retail and leisure complex on the airport grounds will remain closed to the public for a longer period until June 13. They were originally meant to close for two weeks until May 27.

The airport remains open for air travel.

Some 19,000 frontline and office workers at the passenger terminal buildings and Jewel have been tested from May 9 to 20 in a special operation and 10 airport staff members were found to be infected from this exercise.

The 10 new cases comprise two immigration officers, two healthcare workers, a cleaner, a bookstore salesperson, a food court stallholder, a customer service worker at the airport’s lost-and-found department, an attendant at an airport lounge and a security staff member. Six of them have no symptoms.

Workers at the airport’s other buildings — Terminal 1 and Jewel —  all tested negative. Terminals 2 and 4 have been closed since last year due to a sharp fall in air travel caused by the pandemic.

The testing operation was called after a cluster of Covid-19 cases emerged at the airport. As of Thursday, 100 cases have been linked to the Changi Airport cluster, the largest community cluster in Singapore.

CAAS and CAG said that all airport workers who were working around the basement level two of Terminal 3 and who had tested negative for Covid-19 in their first test had been rostered to take another test since May 20.

“These results are pending,” they said.

With the addition of the 10 workers, a total of 43 airport employees have been infected.

The early group of workers were diagnosed while serving quarantine orders, through rostered routine testing by MOH, a voluntary testing operation for visitors to Terminal 3, or after visiting a clinic. 

“Most of these cases were detected early — cases peaked around May 13 — with very few cases among airport workers subsequently. None of the cases are in serious condition, require oxygen or are in intensive care units,” CAAS and CAG said.

CHANGES TO TESTING REGIME

To reduce transmission at the airport, the authorities are tightening the testing regime for airport workers and arriving passengers.

Since May 20, all arriving passengers from very high-risk countries or regions have had to take an on-arrival antigen rapid test besides a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

The rapid test, while less sensitive than the PCR test, provides an extra layer of screening, CAAS and CAG said.

The faster turnaround time will also allow public health measures to be taken quickly for those who test positive.

From this Sunday, airport workers in higher-risk roles will also need to take one more antigen rapid test between their seven-day rostered routine tests

Last week, CAAS said that the airport will segregate flights and passengers from high-risk countries and regions from those arriving from low-risk places, with passengers from “very high-risk countries” escorted through the airport and swab-tested on arrival at stations separate from other travellers.

More than 90 per cent of frontline aviation workers have been vaccinated since the start of a vaccination exercise for this group in January.

Related topics

Changi Airport Covid-19 coronavirus B1617 Jewel

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