Changi Airport T3 Cluster Began at Arrival Gates & Baggage Claim Hall, Where Half of Infected Staff Worked

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In just 20 days, more than 100 infections have emerged from the cluster at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

Is the coronavirus especially productive at airports (like the stressed students who always hang out at Terminal 3’s Starbucks), or is there a more rational explanation for this?

Well, thanks to the Changi Airport Group (CAG), we now have an answer.

Changi Airport T3 Cluster Began at Arrival Gates & Baggage Claim Hall

Investigations by CAG have revealed that the cluster at Terminal 3 (T3) began in the arrival gates and baggage claim hall, where airport staff worked in close proximity to arriving passengers.

Since around half of the airport employees who tested positive for COVID-19 worked in the arrival zone, this suggests that areas where staff and arriving passengers were in close contact were the sites of the primary infection.

So, how did the virus spread to other workers from there? After all, 43 airport workers have tested positive so far.

Well, the authorities believe that the infected workers—ten at arrival gates and 11 at the baggage claim hall—later mingled with others working in the transit areas, departure gates, and the Basement 2 food court, leading to secondary clusters of infections.

Six cases have been detected in the transit areas, while ten non-transit airport staff who visited the Basement 2 food court have tested positive for COVID-19.

This is hardly surprising, considering that 12 of the 21 T3 arrival zone workers visited the food court.

However, CAG said that at these areas, the “risk profile is no different than the rest of Singapore.”

“This food court is subsidised for airport workers and is de facto the canteen for (those working in the arrival zone) and also serves the public. It is now quite clear that although there was a lot of attention on this, the food court is not the issue,” CAG chief executive Lee Seow Hiang said.

“It is a secondary source of infection,” he clarified.

The authorities believe, however, that the initial transmission that led to the cluster could have occurred after an airport worker assisted a family from South Asia, who had arrived in Singapore on 29 April.

The family is unlikely to have arrived on a flight from India, because India has banned all international commercial services to and from Singapore since last March.

108 Infections So Far

Three new cases were linked to the T3 cluster on 23 May, bringing the total tally in the cluster to 108 cases.

The three newest infections are:


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  • A 7-year-old male Singaporean who is a student at St Stephen’s School; he was last in school on 12 May
  • A 45-year-old male Philippines national who is an engineer at STMicroelectronics Pte Ltd; he was last at work on 8 May
  • A 67-year-old female Singaporean who is employed by Hong Ye Group Pte Ltd as a cleaner at Changi Business Park

The 7-year-old is a family member of two previous cases: a homemaker who visited Changi Airport Terminal 3, and an 11 year-old male Singaporean who is a student at St Stephen’s School.

The 7-year-old was placed on quarantine on 12 May. When tested during quarantine on 14 May, his result came back negative.

However, he developed a fever on 21 May and was tested for COVID-19 again, and this time he was confirmed to be COVID-19 positive. His serology test result is pending.

To prevent further infections, the airport will segregate its 14,000 workers into three distinct zones, with strict measures to ensure the 4,400 workers in the highest-risk zone are protected from COVID-19 and isolated from other staff and the public.

Rental fees for Jewel and Changi Airport tenants will also be waived until 13 June.

Jewel, T1, and T3, will remain closed to the public until 27 May.


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Feature Image: Sing Studio / Shutterstock.com


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