HCM City airport tightens COVID-19 preventive measures following staff infection
HCM CITY — Tân Sơn Nhất international airport in HCM City continues to operate normally after one of the airport staff tested positive for the coronavirus yesterday (Feb 6), according to airport authorities.
Phạm Vũ Cường, deputy director of the airport, said: “The infected employee did not come into contact with passengers because he works for the luggage loading service. His infection has not affected the airport’s operation.”
“The airport has activated the highest level of pandemic prevention measures since the northern outbreak in Hải Dương and Quảng Ninh provinces,” he added.
At an urgent meeting on Saturday afternoon, Deputy Minister of Health Đỗ Xuân Tuyên said: “There is no need to shut down the country’s largest airport.”
“It’s hugely urgent to trace and test those who had close contact (F1 and F2) with the employee and one of his two younger brothers who later tested positive for the virus, in both the city and Bình Dương Province,” Tuyên said. “The entire airport was disinfected immediately.”
About 60 people came into contact with the two patients, city authorities said on Sunday morning.
The airport employee tested positive after travelling from HCM City to his hometown in Bình Dương Province. A block of apartments where the patient and his two brothers live was locked down immediately.
The HCM City Centre for Disease and Control (CDC) said it confirmed the employee’s positive test after testing 5,900 out of nearly 7,000 employees at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, beginning on January 30, as ordered by the city government following the third wave of local infections from the north.
The HCM City CDC rushed to test the remaining 1,000 employees of the airport through the night and completed all the samples by Sunday morning. The results will be annouced as soon as possible, they said.
According to the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), all employees of Việt Nam’s 21 airports out of 22 airports have been told to be tested for Covid-19.
Of the 22 airports, the Vân Đồn airport in Quảng Ninh Province, which has been receiving repatriation flights with a number of passengers testing postive for COVID-19, has been locked down since January 28 after a number of airport employees tested positive. It is set to reopen on February 13.
Airport’s strict measures
Tân Sơn Nhất airport has ramped up measures to prevent the spread of the virus during the Lunar New Year holiday.
Medical screenings will be strictly conducted at the airport in line with the Government and the Health Ministry.
Passengers who fail to comply with regulations on aviation security, conceal infections, or fail to fill in health declarations accurately will be punished under the Criminal Law.
The airport will allocate staff to be on duty around the clock during the holiday.
Airport staff are required to wear face masks while on duty, wash hands with alcohol-based sanitiser, have their body temperature checked, and disinfect surfaces regularly.
Đào Thị Hoa, 28, a passenger service staff at the airport, told Việt Nam News: “COVID-19 prevention measures have been tightened at the airport for Lunar New Year when there is a huge number of passengers. Each employee is provided with face masks, gloves, face shield, and alcohol-based sanitaiser while on duty.”
“The number of passengers has surged in the last few days, two or three times higher than normal days. I always wear gloves, face mask, face shield, wash hands regularly with alcohol-based sanitiser, and disinfect the check-in counter surface.”
“Passengers are asked to wear face masks at all time at the airport, and maintain social distancing when queueing up. We will provide face masks when passengers need them.”
Trần Thị Thuý, 45, a passenger from the central province of Nghệ An, said: “Today I wore double face masks. It’s important to always wear a face mask, keep distance, and wash hands frequently with alcohol-based sanitiser in public places.”
When asked if she was afraid to travel by air now, she said: “I’ve been super careful, but it’s not that scary as I can see everyone is wearing a face mask. Alcohol-based sanitiser is available almost everywhere at the airport, and passegers get their body temperature checked before getting onboard.”
“Based on my observation since the pandemic borke out since early 2020, I trust in the serious measures taken by the airport authorities and the Government.”
“When I arrive in my hometown, I will stay at home, restrict travel, and only have contact with family members,” she said.
Airlines’ stringent measures
Airlines operating at Tân Sơn Nhất airport have been ordered to strictly implement all measures in line with the Health Ministry’s guidance. Social distancing measures are applied on flights in which middle seats are kept vacant and no meals are served.
In a related move, national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines has announced it will intensify prevention measures during the holiday.
All passengers must have their temperature checked before boarding, fill out a health declaration, and wear a face mask throughout the flight. Passengers will be provided with alcohol-based towels on board.
Passengers must also abide by social distancing measures at check-in areas and will be given sanitised wipes.
At the end of day, all aircraft will be thoroughly sprayed with disinfectant.
All passengers are strongly recommended to follow the Health Ministry’s 5K (in Vietnamese) message: Khẩu trang (face mask) – Khử khuẩn (disinfection) – Khoảng cách (distance) – Không tụ tập (no gathering) – Khai báo y tế (health declaration).
According to Vietnam Airlines, the number of air passengers has gradually increased ahead of the Lunar New Year.
During the holiday period, Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines and VASCO are expected to serve an average of 20,000 passengers per day from Tân Sơn Nhất.
Many flights are full (80 to 90 per cent) from HCM City to destinations like Thanh Hóa, Vinh, Đồng Hới, Chu Lai, Huế, Cam Ranh and Phu Quốc.
Thousands of passengers in recent days have been flocking to the domestic terminal of Tân Sơn Nhất airport to return home for the holiday celebration. The airport areas have been packed with long queues.
Almost all the passengers arriving at the airport wear a face mask, and some of them even wear protective clothing.
Since January 28, Việt Nam has recorded more than 400 locally transmitted cases as of Sunday afternoon. New infections have been detected in 12 cities and provinces so far.
The outbreak in the north is the largest in Việt Nam since a cluster emerged in the central city of Đà Nẵng last July and quickly spread to most regions of the country, leading to the country’s first fatalities from the pandemic.
This week, Vietnamese people will be celebrating the Lunar New Year, an occasion for family reunions that will see millions travel to their hometowns.
Containment efforts could become more complicated during the holiday period when big indoor gatherings are more common. — VNS