In a Straits Times report about a joint statement from the Transport, Foreign Affairs, and Manpower ministries, it is inferred that the family suspected to have seeded the COVID-19 Changi Airport cluster via an airport worker did not arrive on a flight from India.
This is because India has banned all international commercial services to and from Singapore since March last year. The flights that carry passengers both ways are operated by Indian carriers designated by the Indian government, with the approval of the Singapore Government. At the moment, Singapore Airlines operates only cargo flights to India, the ministries noted.
The joint statement came in response to media queries yesterday (23 May). All that is known so far of the family is that they arrived on a flight from a South Asian country. No other details have been made available by the ministries.
Changi Airport cluster becomes largest active cluster in Singapore
Last Friday (21 May), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) revealed that the initial transmission for the current Changi Airport cluster “could have occurred through an airport worker who was assisting a family from South Asia” arriving on 29 April (‘South Asian family suspected to have transmitted B1617 variant to airport worker, unlikely to be migrant workers‘, 22 May).
CAAS and CAG confirmed that test results for an initial batch of COVID-19 positive airport workers were found to be similar and of the B1617 variant, which originated from India. Members of the South Asian family were subsequently also found to have contracted the COVID-19 virus.
About one week after the arrival of the said family, the airport worker, an 88-year-old cleaner, was tested positive for COVID-19 on 5 May. In less than three weeks, a growing number of COVID-19 infections linked to Changi Airport has turned it into Singapore’s largest active cluster.
It has now ballooned in the past week to more than 100 people.
South Asian family unlikely to be migrant workers
Meanwhile, Minister Lawrence Wong has told Singaporeans that Singapore can’t afford to shut its borders as the country needs migrant workers to build homes. He was also trying to explain why Singapore did not close its border to India earlier, given the record new outbreaks happening there.
“We need migrant workers to build our homes,” he said. “Some of our housing projects may now be delayed by up to a year or more. So it does come at a considerable cost to Singaporeans.”
However, the infected members of the South Asian family are unlikely to be migrant workers as foreign workers on Work Permit are not allowed to bring in any dependants with them.
In any case, a cursory check by TOC shows that those who flew directly from South Asia did not compose entirely of migrant workers only. Many more were students, work pass holders, dependant’s pass holders, short-term visit pass holders, and Singapore residents.
For example, in the four days before the 23 Apr ban on travellers who are long-term and short-term pass holders, and who flew directly from India, only 6 out of the 37 infected travellers from India (i.e., 16%) were Work Permit holders.
In regard to the South Asian family said to have infected the Singapore’s airport worker, the Government didn’t say which country they had arrived from. It was, however, reported earlier on 25 Apr that some South Asian nationals were already using Nepal to circumvent travel bans resulting in crowding of hotels in Kathmandu.
Subsequently, the Government also banned all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors coming from Nepal on 2 May, after the South Asian family flew to Singapore on 29 Apr.
Did the named South Asian family arrived to Singapore via Nepal?
If we were to refer to MOH’s records on the visitors coming into Singapore who are found to be infected with COVID-19 between 29 Apr to 9 May, that members of the family found to have contracted the COVID-19 virus subsequently and taking the Government’s statement as a fact that the family did not arrive from India, then it would appear that there are only a few couples that meet the criteria.
Family 2 (62706/62709)
It is unknown which is the family that has been mentioned by CAAS and CAG, but it would appear that all these families are of Indian nationality and had arrived to Singapore via Nepal.
It would do the public justice for the Government to be just frank as to the origin of the family, and not to play mastermind with the general public.