China’s Ba Yi aerobatics team cleared by MINDEF to participate in Singapore Airshow 2020

In the flurry of ramped up health screenings at entry points and travel bans on all travellers arriving from mainland China who had been there in the past 14 days, as well as anyone with a China passport due to the deadly coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, it appears that China’s Ba Yi aerobatics teams have been cleared to participate in the Singapore Airshow 2020 next week.

Organisers of the Singapore Airshow, Experia Events, said that the decision to allow the team to participate in the Singapore Airshow was made after consulting “relevant government authorities”.

Experia said to Defense News that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)’s contingent has taken “proactive measures” such as health checks and temperature screenings to ensure that the contingent is healthy before flying off to Singapore.

It added that these are “military personnel who live on bases and have been conducting regular health checks and regular temperature monitoring, and are taking all necessary precautionary measures in line with existing guidelines while they are in Singapore.”

In a statement early this morning (7 February), the Ministry of Defence announced that it has decided to allow China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)’s air demonstration team to participate after “careful consideration and medical assessment”.

The pilots, who arrived on Wednesday (5 February) started training as soon as they arrived, according to Chinese state media.

The day before, seven Chengdu J-10 fighter jets and a pair of Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft arrived at Changi East Airbase. According to Defense News, the transport aircraft are assigned to the PLAAFS 13th Transport Division which is based on the Hubei Province, where the city of Wuhan is located. It is the epicentre of this coronavirus outbreak.

This raises the question of why these pilots were given an exemption to the travel ban imposed by Singapore on people travelling from China or have passports issued in China.

The ban was implemented as part of measures to contain the virus outbreak and curb the spread of it in Singapore.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said on 31 January, “On top of everything we’ve already introduced, this will enable us to limit the number of new imported cases here and reduce risk of community spread in Singapore.”

“The situation remains fluid, it’s constantly changing, and we do not rule out taking further measures,” he added.

So the question remains, why was China’s PLAAF contingent allowed entry despite the travel bans being in place? And why were they exempted for what is essentially a commercial, industry event?

Singapore Airshow 2020 not flying high this year

The Singapore Airshow, a biennial aerospace event in Singapore, is moving forward with this years’ event despite the withdrawal of 16 exhibitors, 10 from China including China’s largest aircraft maintenance supplies Ameco Beijing. Organisers also expect a much smaller crowd due to travel restrictions and disruptions imposed due to the evolving outbreak situation.

Others that have pulled out include South Korea’s air force, Canadian firm Bombardier, and United States-based Gulfstream and Textron Aviation. The Russian aerospace group Rostec announced that it plans on sending a reduced delegation instead.

On Tuesday, Experia also announced the cancellation of a key aviation conference involving about 300 government officials, civil aviation authorities, airport operators and airline executives from around the world.

The firm said, “This will allow many of the aviation leaders who are deeply involved in working out the responses to the novel coronavirus outbreak to focus on exigencies related to the ongoing situation.”

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