They keep the airport running despite the risks and discomfort, Transport News & Top Stories

Last month, a colleague of Ms Faridah Abdul Latiff at Changi Airport was infected with Covid-19.

A few other colleagues from the Sats customer service team in Terminal 3 have been placed in quarantine as they have been identified as close contacts of Covid-19 cases.

But Ms Faridah and her colleagues remained optimistic.

They made video calls almost daily with their quarantined colleagues to show their support.

The team also received a boost after the colleague with Covid-19 recovered and returned to work. The 66-year-old man, who is fully vaccinated, had only developed a runny nose and a sore throat.

“He said it was lucky that we had the Covid-19 vaccine because he thought it made his symptoms very mild,” Ms. Faridah said.

Ms Faridah and her colleagues are among some 14,000 workers who have remained on the front lines at Changi Airport throughout the pandemic, and recently found themselves under surveillance when a cluster emerged at Terminal 3.

These are cleaners, immigration officers and cart handlers, more than 90% of whom have been vaccinated against Covid-19, but who still need to take strict precautions to minimize their risk of infection.

The new standard for workers means the discomfort of regular Covid-19 swab testing, as well as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for most of their shifts.

Ms Faridah, 46, who works in the airport transit area, must wear an N95 mask, face shield, gloves and a protective gown.

His job is to drive passengers in a buggy and respond if anyone needs help. She handles passengers on some six flights during her daily eight-hour shift and must change into a new set of PPE after each flight.

“In the area where I work, we can’t even see the faces of our friends because of the PPE,” she said.

“A lot of the passengers are also in full PPE – they look like astronauts.”

Certis aviation safety officer Ahmad Faiz Amirul Zainuddin, 28, who checks passengers and their baggage, said it was difficult at first to work in full protective gear, but is now used to it .

It became mandatory attire for him last month after a Covid-19 cluster emerged at Terminal 3. A few of his colleagues were infected.

“When we first heard about the news from the cluster, we were shocked and worried for ourselves and our colleagues,” he said.

“But it gave us the motivation to make sure we were taking care of ourselves.”

Cargo operations manager Peter Krishna, 49, who manages import operations at the air cargo terminal, said workers sweat profusely when breaking down cargoes in hot weather.

“However, we know that prevention is better than cure.”

Workers said they were assured of their safety with vaccinations and precautions to take at the airport – and that they are very careful even after leaving work.

Immigration officer Sergeant Denyce Loo, 25, who clears passports and issues stay-at-home notices, wipes his belongings before leaving.

Once home, the deputy team leader of the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority jumps into the shower before interacting with her family.

“Honestly, I feel a little guilty because my risk of exposure to the virus is high so I’m more worried about my parents. I’m also worried that if anything happens (with me) it will spread to the community. wider, ”she said.

She and her parents were vaccinated, which helped allay her concerns.

Ms Melissa Ong, 31, terminal manager at Changi Airport Group, said regular Covid-19 swab testing for airport workers helped reassure her.

“At first it was very uncomfortable, but we all understood that it was actually the best for us and our families. The tests make us feel safe when we get home,” she said. declared.

A frontline worker, however, is particularly confident in keeping a lid on the Covid-19 virus.

LS 2 Services cleaning supervisor Cliffton Sanjeev Pereira, 42, who is in charge of a team of around eight cleaners in an area of ​​Terminal 1, said their workload tripled during the pandemic.

Not only are high touchpoints cleaned more frequently and thoroughly, more attention is also paid to the overall cleanliness of the airport.

As to whether he has suffered any stigma as a frontline worker, Mr Pereira said he noticed travelers avoiding him at the airport.

He and several colleagues also encountered issues when booking private rental vehicles to and from the airport.

But, despite the challenges and risk of exposure to Covid-19, airport workers told the Sunday Times they wanted to stay.

Most said they enjoyed working in the aviation industry and were ready to fight until large numbers of travelers returned.

Mr. Foong Ling Huei, head of oversight of foreign operators in the flight standards division of the Singapore Civil Aviation Authority (CAAS), said he and his colleagues wanted nothing more than to keep the flights coming.

Mr Foong, 44, who leads a team at CAAS that has developed safe travel measures for aircrews amid the pandemic, said: “It is very sad to go to the airport now and seeing everything on board… There was still that feeling of excitement and happiness in the air, but today it’s all gone.

“Personally, I would like to see Changi come back to life again.”

Toh Ting Wei

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