Few flights at Changi Airport, but checks stepped up for passengers
The pandemic has taken its toll on passenger numbers at once-bustling Changi Airport, but this may not mean less work for ground officers who now have to clear those arriving in Singapore through a multi-step process.
Flights have trickled to 80 a week from the 7,400 of normal times, and planes that used to pack hundreds now carry as few as 10.
In a Facebook post last Friday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the airport now handles around only 100 arrival and 700 departure passengers a day. And while flights used to connect the airport to some 380 cities, incoming flights from fewer than just 10 cities have continued.
They include London, Los Angeles, Jakarta, Tokyo, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur.
Yet, even as air traffic has plummeted, Covid-19 has also presented greater challenges in clearing arriving passengers - now almost solely returning Singapore residents.
Since Jan 30, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) has been coordinating a joint effort among several agencies to manage the process of handling returning residents at Changi Airport, as the Republic gradually expanded stay-home notice and quarantine requirements to more locations.
Agencies involved include the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore , as well as security firm Certis and Raffles Medical Group.
Mr Bernard Lim, senior director of MOT's international relations and security division, said officers from various agencies work in three roughly eight-hour shifts and take about 30-60 minutes to prepare beforehand.
The process begins the day before, when data is gathered from the airlines regarding the number of returnees, so that hotels and shuttle buses can prepare in advance.
After passengers exit their plane, they walk past two sets of thermal scanners that monitor their temperatures. Those who have a high temperature or are unwell are taken to medical points for check-ups. If suspected of having Covid-19, they are taken immediately by ambulance to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
After they collect their baggage, they go to a bay where buses take them to one of 33 hotels prepared to house them for the 14-day stay-home period, a requirement for all returnees.
Apart from Singaporeans, MOT and other agencies have also helped foreign nationals - from Chile, Australia, and Malaysia among others - to transit at Changi, at the request of their embassies.
Mr Lim said these passengers either remain on board the aircraft while it refuels, or in "exceptional cases" disembark and transfer to another aircraft parked a short distance away.