Jewel to reopen on June 14; Changi Airport piloting breathalyser tests for workers

SINGAPORE – Jewel Changi Airport will reopen on Monday (June 14), after it was closed along with the airport terminals on May 13 amid a growing Covid-19 cluster that originated in Terminal 3.

The passenger terminal buildings will remain closed to the public to allow the airport community to adjust to new safety measures that segregate 14,000 airport workers into three distinct zones based on risk level, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) on Friday.

They added that deep cleaning and disinfection of Jewel and the passenger terminals have been completed, and the segregated zoning system is in place.

More details about the terminals reopening will be released nearer to the date, the agencies said.

Separately, some airport workers have begun taking Covid-19 breathalyser tests as part of a small-scale pilot.

In their joint statement, CAAS and CAG said workers taking part in this pilot will blow into a disposable TracieX breathalyser fitted with a sensor chip.

The breathalyser will then be inserted into a portable reading device that will be able to tell within two minutes if a person has been infected with Covid-19.

This new, non-invasive test will gradually be scaled up to replace antigen rapid tests (ARTs) for more airport workers.

Since May 23, airport workers in higher risk roles have had to take an additional ART between their seven-day rostered routine polymerase chain reaction tests. It takes about 30 minutes to get ART results.

The TracieX breath test, developed by local medical technology firm Silver Factory Technology, is the second such system to receive provisional authorisation from the Health Sciences Authority.

Transport Minister S. Iswaran said breathalyser tests are a potential game changer because of they can get results much more quickly and are less intrusive than ARTs.

Changi Airport will gradually scale up the use of breathalysers to collect more data and assess their sensitivity and specificity, he told reporters during a visit to T3.

Sensitivity refers to a test’s ability to identify those infected as positive.

A test with lower sensitivity will have more false negatives, meaning more true infections are missed.

Specificity refers to a test’s ability to correctly identify those not infected as negative.

This means a test with lower specificity has more false positives.

An airport employee demonstrates the breathalyser test on June 11, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

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$15 million fund for airport workers

CAAS and CAG on Friday said $15 million will be set aside to provide a special monthly allowance for six months, to help airport workers adapt to the enhanced measures put in place at the terminals.

The fund will also go towards catering meals for workers during their shifts and defraying the cost of their personal protective equipment (PPE). It will benefit about 5,000 workers.

Those working in the highest-risk areas of an airport terminal – the departure and arrival gates, arrival immigration hall and baggage claim hall – have to wear full PPE at all times, except during meal times and toilet breaks.

They also cannot leave their zone throughout their shift, and are cohorted to avoid cross-deployment with the other two lower-risk zones.

A dedicated area for airport workers to eat and rest at Changi Airport Terminal 3. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

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CAAS and CAG said there have not been any new Covid-19 cases involving airport workers since May 20.

Of the 43 workers who tested positive, 42 have been discharged and the remaining patient is recovering in hospital without needing oxygen, they added.

The Changi Airport T3 cluster has 108 cases in total.

Asked for an update on the postponed air travel bubble with Hong Kong, Mr Iswaran said both sides remain fully committed to resume air travel and are carefully monitoring the situation.

“We will review this in the early part of July, and then we will be able to make an assessment of how to proceed,” he added.

“We will take a similar approach in working with other potential partners as well.”

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