Singapore minister says 37,000 front-line aviation, maritime workers to be vaccinated for Covid-19 over next two months

Front-line workers from the aviation and maritime sectors receive their Covid-19 vaccines at the vaccination centre at Changi Airport Terminal 4 on January 18, 2021. — Picture by Nuria Ling/TODAY
Front-line workers from the aviation and maritime sectors receive their Covid-19 vaccines at the vaccination centre at Changi Airport Terminal 4 on January 18, 2021. — Picture by Nuria Ling/TODAY

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SINGAPORE, Jan 18 — The vaccination exercise for the aviation and maritime sectors began in earnest today, with 37,000 front-line workers expected to be vaccinated against Covid-19 over the next two months. 

Of these, 20,000 workers are from the aviation industry. They include those who may come into contact with travellers from high-risk countries, such as pilots, cabin crew members and baggage handlers. 

So far, 13,000 front-line workers from the two sectors have signed up to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the vaccination centre at Changi Airport Terminal 4 today.  

Ong received his Covid-19 vaccine there today, along with 2,000 front-line workers. 

Singapore’s vaccination exercise started last month, with healthcare workers being the first to get the jab.

About 27,000 marine sector workers tested for Covid-19 in ‘one-time sweep’; vaccinations have started, says MPA.

Last week, workers from the community care sector, as well as Home Team officers in front-line healthcare operations, stepped up to get vaccinated.

Senior citizens are the next in line to receive the jab from the end of this month.

Ong said that the vaccination exercise was “an important step” in reviving the pandemic-battered aviation industry.

He added that the vaccination would also provide front-line workers with added protection against the coronavirus, which has sickened 93 million people worldwide and claimed more than two million lives.

Front-line workers from the aviation and maritime sectors receive their Covid-19 vaccines at the vaccination centre at Changi Airport Terminal 4 on January 18, 2021.

If (front-line workers) get themselves substantially vaccinated, (they) will have taken a big step in terms of defending Singapore and securing our borders.

“Asked whether he had any concerns about workers who may be reluctant to get vaccinated, Ong said that there would always be a portion of staff members who will not want to receive the vaccine. 

Still, he believes that the majority of workers would step forward to get the jab.

“So just start vaccinating those who are willing first and, over time, I think that momentum will grow, and get bigger and bigger,” he said.

In a press statement today, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said that more than 1,000 front-line aviation workers have already received the first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The vaccine, the only one approved in Singapore thus far, requires two doses 21 days apart. 

CAAS added that front-line workers can undergo less frequent Rostered Routine Testing, which is for those at greater risk of contracting Covid-19, two weeks after they receive the second dose of the vaccine.  

For example, those who are on the seven-day Rostered Routine Testing cycle need only be tested every 14 days, while those on the 14-day cycle will have to be tested only once a month.

Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble

Ong was asked if a new date has been set for the resumption of the travel bubble agreement between Singapore and Hong Kong, which allows travellers to visit the two cities without undergoing quarantine.

The air travel bubble was due to start on November 22 last year, but was later postponed indefinitely when coronavirus cases spiked in Hong Kong.

Ong said that it was unlikely that the travel bubble would resume anytime soon because Hong Kong continues to report between 40 and 50 new Covid-19 cases daily. The Chinese city has so far recorded about 9,550 coronavirus cases in total. 

“It will take a while before it comes down, so I would rather not fix ourselves any target,” said Ong.

“We also must take care of our situation, make sure we continue to keep our community cases very low.

“And when the conditions are right, we have an agreement already baked on the table, and we can activate it anytime,” he added.

As for whether Singapore will now require aviation workers from Hong Kong to be vaccinated for the travel bubble to proceed, Ong said that the vaccination exercise and the travel bubble were separate matters.

For the travel bubble, the deciding factors would still be the number of community cases, as well as whether the overall virus control systems and surveillance measures are robust in both countries, he said. — TODAY

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