Family that sparked Changi Airport COVID cluster unlikely to have arrived from India

·Editorial Team
·2 min read
A traveller (R) waits in the departure hall of Changi International Airport in Singapore on March 15, 2021. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
A traveller (R) waits in the departure hall of Changi International Airport in Singapore on March 15, 2021. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The family thought to have sparked the Changi Airport COVID-19 cluster, which now numbers more than 100 cases, is unlikely to have arrived on a flight from India.

This is because India has banned all international commercial services to and from Singapore since last March.

According to a joint statement on Sunday (23 May) from the transport, foreign affairs and manpower ministries, Singapore Airlines is only allowed to operate cargo flights to India for now. 

Meanwhile, Vande Bharat flights, operating out of Terminal 1, are the only passenger flights between the two countries. Vande Bharat is a repatriation exercise by the Indian government to bring back stranded Indian nationals during the pandemic. 

According to the ministries, some 25 passengers arrive from India every day, with the "vast majority" being returning Singapore citizens and permanent residents. An average of 180 passengers fly in the opposite direction each day. 

These flights are operated only by Indian carriers designated by the Indian government, with the approval of Singapore.

All arriving passengers at Changi Airport are subject to an Antigen Rapid Tests and a Polymerase Chain Reaction test on arrival, the ministries said. They are escorted from disembarkation through to their dedicated transport to go to the Stay Home Notice facilities for 21 days. 

On Friday, the Changi Airport Group said the initial transmission may have occurred through an airport worker who was helping the South Asian family, who arrived in Singapore on 29 April and were subsequently found to be infected. 

Phylogenetic testing results for an initial batch of infected airport workers indicated that they originated from a common source, as they were found to be similar and of the India variant, or B.1617. 

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