Singapore has recently started to outline its strategy to move to ‘endemic phase’ for COVID-19, as increasing numbers of residents become vaccinated, allowing a phased opening of borders to selected countries with low case numbers who are successfully managing the virus on a similar principle.
In the meantime, this allowed Changi Airport to make a head start on renovation works in Terminal 2, which will boast the highest passenger capacity of all passenger terminals on completion in 2023/24.
Terminal 4 could reopen for arrival processing
Yesterday Singapore’s Transport Minister Mr Iswaran said that agencies are working on a proposal that would see arrivals from ‘very high-risk’ countries processed through Terminal 4, currently comprising those with travel history in the last 21 days to:
- Sri Lanka
These passengers undergo both a COVID-19 PCR test and an additional Antigen Rapid Test at the airport, before proceeding to their hotel for a 14-day SHN period.
They are already processed separately to other arrivals, through remote ‘bus bays’ at Terminal 2, which like Terminal 4 is also currently closed to regular passenger operations.
As you may recall, Terminal 2 is undergoing significant redevelopment works and another facility would therefore probably be more appropriate for processing each time a flight arrives from a ‘very high-risk’ location.
“We are studying the use of T4 for this purpose because T4 will have larger capacity, and it is something that now the various agencies involved are working through.”Mr Iswaran, Singapore Transport Minister
Opening T4 for this purpose shouldn’t be too difficult, since only the arrivals and immigration area would be needed.
The T4 arrivals hall housed one of the city’s first COVID-19 vaccination centres earlier this year, to inoculate aviation workers, however this has now closed with 95% of airport staff now fully vaccinated.
“If we are able to use T4, then it enhances our ability to deal with flows from the very high-risk countries.”Mr Iswaran, Singapore Transport Minister
It’s not a new concept
Processing higher risk arrivals in separate terminal facilities in this way is not an entirely new concept.
London Heathrow Airport began processing flights arriving from the UK’s ‘red list’ (high-risk) countries through the then-closed Terminal 3 in June 2021.
Passengers on those flights had to be UK citizens or residents returning, and were subject to COVID-19 testing on arrival, followed by 10 days of mandatory hotel quarantine.
These high-risk arrivals have since been switched to Heathrow’s Terminal 4, which is physically separated from the other terminals in a similar way that Changi T4 is effectively isolated from the rest of the airport.
Passenger numbers at Changi are likely to remain low for some time to come, and with slow vaccination rates in many countries we can unfortunately expect further COVID-19 outbreaks in some parts of the world.
That will likely mean the continued need to segregate those arriving from very high-risk areas at Changi, and Terminal 4’s relative isolation from the rest of the airport makes it the ideal facility to use for the time being.
The downside for some of our readers is that it may be some time before they get to visit the Cathay Pacific lounge in T4 again, though thankfully there are several good oneworld alternatives in T1, once they reopen.
(Cover Photo: SAA Architects)