Singapore has rolled out an ambitious drive to get staff in the aviation sector inoculated against the coronavirus, as it hopes the exercise will provide a shot in the arm for the battered industry.
Speaking at the official launch of the vaccination drive for aviation and maritime workers on 18 January, Singapore transport minister Ong Ye Kung underpinned the importance of the exercise: “[One reason] why it is important, is you are helping to revive our industry. And I particularly want to say this to those in the aviation industry.
“Aviation … is totally decimated by Covid-19, but we must be determined because the virus and the crisis will pass, and when it passes, we must make sure Singapore can become an aviation hub of the region, of the world again,” adds Ong, who was at Changi Airport’s Terminal 4, which has been converted into a vaccination centre.
The minister adds that it was possible that national carrier Singapore Airlines could be the world’s first vaccinated international carrier.
“[We] will be one of the first few, if not the only in the world where the frontliners are substantially vaccinated. SIA can be the first vaccinated international airline of the world — try to get that done. And imagine what that tells the world? Whoever sails to Singapore, flies through Singapore, flies to Singapore, know that we are safe, we are united, we are cohesive.”
“This adds a lot to our international branding,” says Ong, who, together with SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong and other senior leadership in Singapore’s aviation industry, also received the coronavirus vaccine on 18 January.
In a separate note to staff members, Goh says the vaccination drive will be a “game-changer” in restarting the industry, which has been badly impacted from a collapse in travel demand.
”Being directly involved in the transportation of people and essential goods around the world, our business - and indeed our survival – ultimately depends on open borders. It will set the SIA Group up for a quicker recovery from this debilitating crisis, and provide a platform for us to return to pre-Covid operations. This will also be an important differentiator in the airline industry, and support our goal of continuing to be a leader in the new normal,” adds Goh.
In total, around 37,000 workers in both aviation and maritime sectors will be inoculated, with priority given to those in frontline roles, who may come into contact with travellers from high-risk countries. These include cabin crew, pilots, as well as baggage and cargo handlers.
“[We] will be one of the first few, if not the only in the world where the frontliners are substantially vaccinated. SIA can be the first vaccinated international airline of the world — try to get that done. And imagine what that tells the world? Whoever sails to Singapore, flies through Singapore, flies to Singapore, know that we are safe, we are united, we are cohesive.” - Ong Ye Kung, Singapore transport minister
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) adds that with the vaccination drive in force, it will scale back on testing requirements for air crew and airport workers.
Those on a 7-day Rostered Routine Testing will only need to be tested once every 14 days, after they have received the vaccine. Workers on a 14-day testing cycle will only need to do it once a month, the CAAS adds.
Separately, Air New Zealand has partnered with the country’s health country to investigate the effectiveness of saliva testing in detecting Covid-19.
The three-month study will involve Air New Zealand employees on regular surveillance testing, the airline adds.