Changi Airport Group (CAG) in Singapore has implemented new security measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at its passenger terminals, particularly the more contagious variant B.1.617. Previously, launching the Straits Times, Tuesday (25/5/2021), Changi Airport was the largest COVID-19 cluster with a record of more than 100 cases in less than a month.
The new measures, reports Mothership Singapore, are based on the concept of special work zones to minimize contact between arriving and departing passengers and airport staff, in addition to improved safety protocols. CAG CEO Lee Seow Hiang said the upgraded protocol is expected to be fully implemented by June 13, 2021.
This is done to ensure that the “high risk zone” handling arriving passengers can be securely fenced off. It is hoped that the decree will eventually help protect CAG workers and Singaporeans in general.
The two terminals currently operating, Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, will be divided into three different zones, namely 1, 2 and 3. Zone 3 marks areas open to the public, such as the check-in area before the boarding gate. Then, Zone 2 marks the central transit area after passengers have passed through the boarding gate.
Finally, Zone 1, including the arrival immigration hall and baggage claim area, is considered the highest risk zone. Extra precautions will be taken in the zone.
When walking through the terminal, a sign will appear to show staff and passengers when they move from one zone to another.
As an added precaution, passengers from “very high risk countries” will be directed to remote gates in Terminal 2, not Terminals 1 and 3. There, all immigration clearance and other procedures will be carried out.
After that, they will be transported by bus out of Singapore Changi Airport and directly to designated quarantine facilities. Therefore, they will not go through Terminals 1 and 3.
PPE Usage Rules
CAG said that prior to this, safety protocols were “task-specific.” For example, if a worker is tasked with cleaning toilets, they must comply with the highest safety measures.
However, this new concept is based on “zone-specific”. Therefore, workers in Zone 1, no matter what task they are performing, will adhere to enhanced safety measures.
Included in these regulations are the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), surgical masks, face shields, and gloves. Workers cleaning toilets in Zone 1 will also be given N95 masks for added safety.
Zone 1 workers will also be separated from other workers during their shift. There will be a dining and resting room, even a special toilet for them.
Before entering and leaving this area, staff will be given a doffing area and wear special PPE, which they can safely remove or wear.
Apart from the night, Zone 1 workers must wear PPE at all times, including during breaks and using the toilet. Staff working in Zones 2 and 3 must also comply with PPE requirements.
Vaccinations for Airport Staff
CAG said it was working to ensure that 100 percent of Zone 1 workers at Changi Airport were fully vaccinated when the protocol was implemented. This is to reduce the chance of infection, reduce further transmission, and reduce the severity of disease if a worker does become infected.
CAG will re-deploy unvaccinated workers to work in other zones to reduce the risk of infection. They also aim to have more than 90 percent of workers in Zones 2 and 3 get the full vaccination.
In addition, the RT-PCR test will be carried out every seven days, interspersed with a rapid antigen test on the third day. CAG is also planning daily non-invasive tests for Zone 1 workers to be carried out at the end of their shift before leaving.
In order to further reduce the risk of airborne transmission, CAG installed portable air purifiers with HEPA filters throughout key areas in new separate zones, such as confined spaces where staff and passengers gather.