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SINGAPORE — Singapore Airlines (SIA) said in a message to staff on Monday (4 May) that there had been a 16th case of coronavirus infection among the airline’s employees in Singapore, according to a company circular seen by Yahoo Lifestyle SEA.
This brings the total reported cases within the SIA group to 18, after including two infected employees from ground crew in SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC).
Besides the flag carrier Singapore Airlines, the SIA group’s subsidiaries include SIAEC, Scoot and SilkAir airlines.
The latest case came from ground staff based at Changi Airport. She reported symptoms of the COVID-19 illness on 27 April and was put on medical leave. She was referred for a COVID-19 test on 30 April and tested positive on 1 May. She is currently warded in hospital, said SIA.
SIA also said in the memo that one more employee from a ground vendor based in Airline House had been infected, bringing the total number of the company’s vendor cases to four. The latest vendor case tested positive for the virus on 29 April. He had been issued a quarantine order by the government on 20 April, after close contact with a confirmed infected person.
Among its infected employees, 12 cases had fully recovered and been discharged, said SIA in the memo.
When contacted by Yahoo Lifestyle SEA, SIA did not comment on whether the new cases had been in contact with the public, but said that cases within the company were not linked to each other.
An SIA spokesperson said that the company was taking steps to ensure the safety of customers and staff, and was working with the authorities on contact tracing efforts. “We also take all necessary precautions when there is a positive case within SIA, including disinfecting the areas in which the staff member worked in and placing anyone who may have been in contact with the staff member on a leave of absence out of an abundance of precaution.”
“The individual COVID-19 infections among SIA staff are isolated cases, and not linked to each other. There is no cluster in SIA,” the spokesperson added.
Yahoo Lifestyle SEA first reported cases of COVID-19 infection within SIA on 22 April.
Of the infected cases, 15 are flight crew members. Four of the flight crew cases are pilots while 11 are flight attendants.
Based on internal company circulars seen by Yahoo Lifestyle SEA, SIA had regularly updated its employees about COVID-19 cases within its Singapore-based staff in March and April.
SIA said in these memos that the cases it reported did not include confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its offices outside of Singapore due to privacy and confidentiality laws in some countries.
Singapore today reported 632 more cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the total number so far in the city-state to 19,410, the highest recorded among Southeast Asian countries.
SIA, SilkAir still operating reduced flights
Global air travel has decreased drastically since the coronavirus outbreak, but some airlines are still operating as people fly back to their home countries. Flight crews face risks of exposure to the virus as they interact with travellers from a range of locations on board aircraft. Airlines such as AirAsia and Philippines Airlines have rolled out special uniforms for its cabin crews that integrate personal protective equipment.
SIA and SilkAir announced on 20 April that both airlines will operate a reduced schedule of services in May in response to the pandemic.
In the announcement, SIA and SilkAir said within Southeast Asia, they will fly to cities like Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila during the month. They will also fly to Chongqing, Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, Los Angeles, London, Frankfurt, and Zurich.
Airline crews arriving in Singapore are not required by the government to serve stay-home notices, as long as they meet certain safety conditions during the course of their work to minimise the risk of their exposure to the virus. Stay-home notices are orders issued to travellers arriving in Singapore requiring them to be quarantined for 14 days.
The conditions that airline staff are required to meet to be exempt from stay-home notices include wearing face masks throughout the flight, staying on board aircraft at airports in affected areas, and remaining inside their hotel rooms during layovers in between flights.
Further precautionary measures that SIA has implemented include providing hand sanitisers and gloves for flight crews, screening staff’s temperatures before they board flights, catering out of Singapore for all flight sectors, removal of seatback literature for selected cabins, and the temporary suspension of in-flight sales and hot towel service.
As airlines worldwide floundered in the wake of plummeting travel demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, SIA announced on 23 March that it would reduce its capacity by 96 per cent, ground most of its fleet and implement aggressive cost-cutting measures. SIA’s largest shareholder, Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, said it would underwrite the airline’s move to raise S$15 billion in funds by issuing new shares and bonds. SIA also took a S$4 billion loan from DBS bank.