As COVID-19 vaccinations start to be rolled out worldwide, Singapore Airlines wants to be the world’s first international airline to have all its flight crew and ground workers vaccinated against the deadly virus. Today, Singapore started a massive exercise to vaccinate 37,000 front-line aviation and maritime workers and hopes to have all workers in these two important sectors vaccinated within two months.
During a visit to the vaccination center at Changi Airport, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters that, so far, 13,000 workers had registered to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. He said that getting front-line aviation workers vaccinated was a significant step towards reviving Singapore as a major international air hub following the devastation brought about by the global pandemic.
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A safe travel hub
If a substantial number of workers in the aviation and maritime sectors get vaccinated, the minister said that,
“Whoever comes through will know that it is safe (that) our people are cohesive, and we work as a team.
“This is a huge advantage in terms of our brand name.”
Mr. Ong went on to say that Singapore Airlines could be the first airline in the world to inoculate all of its workers. He noted that, while the virus may be under control in Singapore, in other parts of the world it is spreading like a “wildfire.”
“All our 37,000 front-liners, they’re defenders of our borders because the borders are a key vulnerability,” he said when speaking to The Straits Times. He added that the Singapore government had set aside enough doses of the vaccine to take care of the country’s key group of workers and urged front-line workers to step forward.
When asked about workers who may be reluctant to get vaccinated, Mr. Ong said there would be some due to personnel considerations but that he expects the vast majority to get vaccinated, adding,
“So just start vaccinating those who are willing first, and over time, I think, the momentum will grow, the snowball will get bigger and bigger. As of now, the national policy remains that we are not making it compulsory, even at the sectoral basis.”
Terminal 4 can vaccinate 2,000 people per day
In a statement issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), they were keen to point out that the test center at Terminal 4 can currently vaccinate 2,000 people per day. It further said that they are looking into ramping up that number.
Initially, priority will be given to around 20,000 front-line aviation workers, including cabin crew, security screeners, baggage handlers, and cleaners; all workers who come in contact with travelers arriving from high-risk countries. Meanwhile, at the Raffles City Convention Centre, where maritime workers are getting vaccinated, the center can administer 1,000 jabs per day.
Recent COVID-19 infections in Singapore have been linked to workers in the aviation and maritime sectors, with the most recent 13 cases linked to the NewOcean6 bunker tanker. The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport hotel also had to close for two weeks starting January 8 after several people, including aircrew and guests, tested positive for the virus.
Hong Kong travel bubble
When asked about the Hong Kong travel bubble that got deferred in November due to an increase in cases in the Special Administrative Region of China, Mr. Ong said he preferred not to set a timeline.
“We ourselves must take care of our situation, make sure we continue to keep our community cases very low, and if the conditions are right, we have an agreement already baked on the table, and we can activate it anytime,” he added.
The plan is to have at least eight vaccination centers up and running in Singapore by the end of February and to have all citizens and permanent residents vaccinated by the third quarter of 2021.
Do you think that other countries like Singapore should try and vaccinate frontline air and maritime workers ahead of the general public? Please tell us what you think in the comments.