Singapore enhances safety measures at airport as Omicron spreads overseas

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), airport workers who interact with passengers, even those in public areas like the taxi stand, must don enhanced personal protective equipment, including N95 masks and face shields.

omicron cases in singapore
All travellers who already hold a ticket on a VTL flight or bus and meet all other VTL requirements can continue to travel under the quarantine-free travel scheme. (Photo source: Reuters)

Singapore has enhanced safety measures for all airport workers who interact with arriving passengers at the Changi Airport here amidst the rapid spread of the Omicron variant overseas, the country’s civil aviation authority said on Wednesday.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), airport workers who interact with passengers, even those in public areas like the taxi stand, must don enhanced personal protective equipment, including N95 masks and face shields.

“We are picking up more Omicron cases because of the rapid spread of the variant across many countries/regions. Thus far, our enhanced testing regime for travellers has helped us to detect 65 confirmed Omicron cases,” the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

The move will help limit Singapore’s exposure to imported Omicron COVID-19 cases, the Channel News Asia quoted the MOH as saying. All frontline workers will also be subject to a stricter testing regime. They will “minimally” be placed on seven-day polymerase chain reaction (PCR) rostered routine testing (RRT), instead of the current seven-day antigen rapid test (ART) RRT cycle, said the authority.

Singapore air crew will undergo an “enhanced” seven-day PCR RRT regime, “with an employer-supervised ART on the third day of the cycle”, it said.

CAAS’ announcement comes on the same day the MOH announced that all new ticket sales for vaccinated travel lane (VTL) flights and buses (going to neighbouring Peninsular Malaysia) will be frozen from December 23 to January 20 next year.

All travellers who already hold a ticket on a VTL flight or bus and meet all other VTL requirements can continue to travel under the quarantine-free travel scheme.

The MOH will also temporarily reduce the VTL quotas and ticket sales for travel after January 20, 2022. In a statement, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that it would temporarily reduce the capacity and ticket sales for travel into Singapore or Malaysia via VTL (Land by bus) from January 21, 2022 by half – the equivalent of 24 one-way bus rides per day.

The MTI said it would continue to monitor the situation closely and adjust the VTL (Land) capacity, taking into account the public health situation in both countries and globally.

New VTL (Land) bus tickets will not be sold for travel into Singapore or Malaysia from 11.59 PM on December 22, 2021, to 11.59 PM on January 20, 2022. The land VTL between the two countries was launched on November 29, 2021.

“With aggressive contact tracing and ringfencing measures, we have, for now, been able to limit onward community transmission. But it is a matter of time before the Omicron variant spreads in our community,” the MTI said.

Singapore’s border measures will help to buy the country time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen its defences, including enhancing its healthcare capacity, and getting more people vaccinated and boosted, it said.

Meanwhile, Singapore reported 280 new COVID-19 cases and two fatalities as of noon on Tuesday, according to the Channel report. Among the new cases, 221 cases are from the local community, five from migrant workers’ dormitories and 54 imported or those arriving here. Seventy-one of these infections were confirmed to be Omicron cases, said the MOH. These are 65 imported cases and six local infections. As of Tuesday, Singapore has recorded 276,385 COVID-19 cases and 817 deaths related to coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

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