As COVID vaccine rollout to frontline workers takes center stage all over the world, seafarers and aviation workers are being prioritized alongwith healthcare workers, and Singapore has taken the lead in this matter as it has said that maritime workers would be getting the vaccine on priority.
Singapore became one of the first countries to prioritise COVID-19 vaccinations for frontline maritime personnel. These workers go onboard vessels at our port and come in contact with people from outside of Singapore. This vaccination exercise is part of the national COVID-19 vaccination strategy to protect frontline personnel and their family members, as well as residents living in Singapore.
According to media reports, Singapore’s plan to vaccinate 37000 aviation and maritime industry workers has started from today as vaccination centres specifically made for the two industries have been launched.
Under the Sea – Air Vaccination Exercise (SAVE), over 10,000 frontline maritime personnel are expected to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by end January. These frontline personnel include port workers, harbour pilots, cargo officers, marine surveyors and marine superintendents who are required to work onboard ships in our port. They carry out essential works including navigation, refuelling, ship repair and maintenance, as well as operations to transfer cargos. Harbourcraft and ocean-going crew who are Singaporeans and long-term residents living in the community are also prioritised for vaccination. Together, these personnel play a major role in keeping the Port of Singapore open and ensuring the undisrupted flow of goods.
The Vaccination Plan
Transport Minister, Omg Ye Kung visited one such centre at Changi Airport Terminal 4 to oversee the matter first hand and there he revealed that “13,000 workers from the two sectors are already scheduled to be vaccinated this week under the Sea-Air Vaccination Exercise”. As part of this program 20,000 frontline workers who are more prone to risk because of their contact with travellers from high risk countries will be vaccinated first, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).
“These include pilots, cabin crew, airport and aircraft cleaners, security screeners, passenger service agents, baggage handlers and cargo handlers,” said CAAS in a statement given to the media.
- After the full course of the vaccination is completed by a person he or she doesn’t need to be tested.
- However, those on the 7-day roster routine have to be tested every 14days and those tested now need to be tested on a monthly basis.
“Air crew who are currently tested on the seventh day after their return to Singapore will be exempted from their test,” said CAAS.
“Those who are tested on arrival in Singapore, and on the third and seventh day, will only need to be tested on arrival, and on the seventh day of their return to Singapore.”
This will be effective 2 weeks after the 2nd dose.
More than 700 personnel have been vaccinated over the past few days to prepare for the full roll-out of SAVE. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has received about 6,000 registrations for vaccination this week.
3000 Vaccinated on First Day
Today, 2000 aviation workers received the vaccine at the airport while 1000 maritime workers were vaccinated at the Raffles City Convention Centre.
Mr Ong, who was vaccinated at the airport said, “I am encouraged by the number and I hope in the coming weeks more will come”. Along with him, other airline officials like the Singapore Airlines Chief Executive Goh Choon and SATS President Alex Hungate were also vaccinated at the airport today.
Over the week, further 7000 aviation workers will be vaccinated.
Huge Medical Force at Work
Dr Tan Joo Peng, a Senior physician at the Raffles Medical group who are conducting the vaccinations revealed that 70 doctors, nurses and healthcare attendants were on the T4 vaccination site today performing all the vaccinations. The centre was created in 5 days and then scaled up to conduct the vaccinations.
Screening Vaccine Risk Factors
The primary work of the staff working onsite is to screen the patients for any risk factors prior administering the vaccine although there have been no side effects so far, said Dr Tan.
“There’ll be some minor side effects, the most common one is the ache at the deltoid area where they are injected … On and off there will be patients who complain of a minor headache, which is also a known, fairly common symptom,” he said.
People who show severe symptoms will be taken to Changi General Hospital which is 10 to 15 minutes away from the airport, said Dr Tan.
First Person To Be Vaccinated
Singapore Airlines Captain, Pilot Anwar Salim was one of the first persons to receive the vaccine today. Speaking to the media, Anwar said that he has a duty to protect others.
“For me, I believe being in the front line of the aviation industry we have a duty to protect not just ourselves, but also the people we work with,” he said.
Anwar didn’t witness any side effects. “I think I can go to the gym later”, he said jovially.
The first maritime worker to be vaccinated was PSA Marine harbour pilot, Mr Loh Kah Wai, 55. He said, “The vaccination keeps me safe and enables me to do my job with less worry. It’s one more layer of protection, not just for me but for my fellow harbour pilots and my family.”
Crucial Step To Restore Aviation & Maritime
As per Ong, this is an important step for Singapore’s Aviation Sector
“You all know that the aviation industry is decimated by COVID-19, but we must have the determination that when the crisis passes, Singapore will be an aviation hub of the region and the world again,” he said.
Singapore has different safety levels at the airport which involves different travel schemes. Features like green lanes, air travel bubbles and segregated travel, etc made way for faster recovery of the aviation sector.
He further added that vaccinated aviation and maritime workers will reinstate Singapore’s reputation as a safe travel space.
“Singapore Airlines can be the first vaccinated international airline in the world,” he said.
The vaccinated workers will also defend the country’s borders against the deadly virus says Ong.
With a vaccination capacity of 4000 per day and with 2 jabs required in 21 days, the Vaccination Centres can immunize 37000 workers within 2 months, says Ong
Vaccinations To Push Travel Restrictions Lift
However, increased vaccinations in the world could give rise to travel entry requirements in Singapore, a situation that the ministry will tackle in the Committee of Supply Debates.
Ong declined to comment on the Hong Kong air travel Bubble revival issue stating that there agreements on the table which needs to be activated at the right moment.
“Singapore continues to explore travel arrangements with other regions and countries and as and when they are ready, we will announce them,” he said.
Due to the better protection offered by vaccination, frontline maritime personnel who have completed their full course of vaccination will be subjected to fewer testing requirements. Going forward, those who are currently on the 7-day Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) will be tested every 14 days; those who are currently on the 14-day RRT will be tested once a month.
Ms Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive, MPA, said, “We rely on our frontline maritime personnel for the transportation of what we need everyday, including food, medical supplies, and consumer goods. We hope that the vaccination can give them peace of mind when they perform their work onboard ships. This will provide an additional layer of protection, and keep their family and the community safe. We strongly encourage them to come forward for early vaccination.”
Frontline maritime personnel can receive their COVID-19 vaccinations at the vaccination centre at Raffles City Convention Centre. Prior appointments are required. MPA, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) are reaching out to the companies involved to schedule appointments. Eligible companies can submit vaccination bookings via https://covidvaccination.mpa.gov.sg, which requires a booking code. Companies that have not received a booking code can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All frontline maritime personnel are encouraged to adhere to their scheduled appointments to minimise individual wait time and to better utilise precious healthcare resources.