CAAS to Further Tighten Measures to Ensure Safety and Well-Being of Air Crew
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will further tighten measures to ensure the safety and well-being of air crew, and to safeguard public health in Singapore. This is in view of the heightened risk of COVID-19 infection overseas given the resurgence observed in several parts of the world, and the confirmation of a Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew and an SIA pilot who tested positive for COVID-19 on 27 December and 29 December 2020 respectively.
2. Air crew face considerable risks in the course of their duties. They do so because it is critical for Singapore to maintain air connectivity. Many essential supplies, such as vaccines, can only be delivered by air. Singaporeans overseas and other essential travellers need to be able to travel to and from Singapore.
3. CAAS, in consultation with the Ministry of Health (MOH), has already put in place stringent measures to protect the air crew of Singapore-based airlines and minimise their risk of exposure to COVID-19 during their duty on board aircraft and overseas:
- During the flight, interactions between crew members and passengers are minimised. Each crew member must wear a mask at all times, and goggles when interacting with passengers. Where possible, they use separate lavatories from the passengers. Air crew are also assigned specific sections within the aircraft to facilitate contact tracing.
- While overseas, air crew are stringently “bubble-wrapped”:
- Air Crew on Turnaround Flights - Singapore air crew operating turnaround flights do not disembark from the aircraft at the overseas destination, except to carry out external safety inspections of the aircraft, or for health or security screening as required by the relevant authorities. This is to minimise their exposure in the airport terminal.
- Air Crew on Layovers at Overseas Destination - Air crew who need to lay over at the destination must observe strict protocols such as wearing masks, observing safe distancing, and remaining in their crew accommodation at all times. The airline must also arrange for dedicated transport to ferry the crew between the airport and the crew accommodation.
4. As an added measure, all air crew undergo regular COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing upon return from overseas to provide added assurance for the crew, their families and Singaporeans that any imported infection can be quickly detected, and necessary medical treatment promptly given to the crew. To date, more than 22,500 COVID-19 PCR tests have been carried out on air crew. Apart from the two cases, all others have tested negative.
Details on cases
5. The first case (case 58766) is an SIA cabin crew who last operated to New York, United States of America on SQ24 on 12 December and returned to Singapore on SQ23 on 16 December. He was asymptomatic and was tested under the testing protocol for Singapore carriers’ air crew upon their return from overseas. This protocol requires a COVID-19 PCR test seven days after his return to Singapore. He was first tested on 23 December and again on 25 December, both with inconclusive results. An additional test on 27 December returned positive.
6. He had been isolated at home since 25 December after he obtained the result of the first test. Following the positive test result on 27 December, he was conveyed to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) on the same day.
7. CAAS' preliminary investigation showed that the cabin crew had adhered to the mandated in-flight and layover measures, including wearing mask, minimising contact with passengers and locals, and staying in his hotel room throughout. During the layover in New York, he interacted with the immigration officer and hotel check-in staff and collected his meal from a hotel staff who delivered it to his room.
8. All crew members and 16 passengers who were seated in the section of the aircraft cabin served by him on SQ23 have tested negative for COVID-19. MOH has put all identified close contacts on Quarantine Order. Contact tracing is in progress.
9. The second case (case 58811) is a pilot who last operated to London, United Kingdom, on SQ322 on 19 December and returned to Singapore on SQ317 on 22 December. He was tested on 23 December under the testing protocol for air crew who fly frequently and his PCR test result on 25 December was negative. He then developed a fever on 26 December and went to a clinic on 27 December for another PCR test, which returned positive on 29 December. He was conveyed to the NCID on the same day. MOH has put all identified close contacts on Quarantine Order.
10. CAAS’ preliminary investigation showed that the pilot had adhered to the mandated in-flight and layover measures, including wearing mask, minimising contact with passengers and locals, and staying in his hotel room throughout. He had no contact with passengers on board the flight. During the layover in London, he interacted with the immigration officer and hotel check-in staff, and also collected his meal from a hotel staff who delivered it to his room.
11. For added precaution, CAAS in consultation with MOH, will further tighten the measures for air crew of Singapore carriers with immediate effect:
- Air crew on layover will be required to further minimise their contact with locals. For example, food delivered through room service should be left outside the room at the door instead of being handed over.
- Increase the frequency of PCR tests for crew. Those who layover in high risk destinations will be required to undergo COVID-19 PCR tests on arrival and on the 3rd and 7th day following their return to Singapore. Crew will be required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from their 7th day PCR test.
12. In addition, crew travelling to and from the United Kingdom have been required to don full personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks, face shields, protective gowns and gloves since 24 Dec 2020. Crew travelling to and from South Africa will also start doing so for flights with immediate effect.
About the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore
The mission of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is to grow a safe, vibrant air hub and civil aviation system, making a key contribution to Singapore's success. CAAS' roles are to oversee and promote safety in the aviation industry, develop the air hub and aviation industry, provide air navigation services, provide aviation training for human resource development, and contribute to the development of international civil aviation.
For more information, please contact:
Ms Michelle Teo
Assistant Director, Corporate Communications