COVID-19: 92 Singaporeans flown home from Wuhan

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
MFA and Scoot officers facilitating operations on ground (left), Singaporeans boarding the Scoot flight in Wuhan (right)

SINGAPORE – Ninety-two Singaporeans have arrived home safely from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) confirmed via a press statement that they were flown in via Scoot flight TR121, which landed at 11.40am on Thursday (30 January). MFA consular officers accompanied the Scoot flight to facilitate ground operations, it said.

The returning Singaporeans were set to undergo medical screening upon arrival at Changi Airport. Those with fever or respiratory symptoms will be taken to designated hospitals for further examination, the ministry said. The remaining passengers, including the MFA consular officers who facilitated the return of these Singaporeans from Wuhan, will be quarantined for 14 days.

In a telephone call with PRC State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday, Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan expressed the Singapore Government’s appreciation to the PRC government, Hubei provincial government, Wuhan city government, and the PRC Embassy in Singapore for facilitating the safe return of these Singaporeans. 

Precautions taken to limit physical contact

(SCREENSHOT: Scoot flight TR121 returning from Wuhan to Singapore on 30 January 2020 at 11.39am/Flight Radar)

In a statement, Scoot said, that it “mounted a Singapore-Wuhan flight TR120 on 29 January 2020 to fly back some of these affected passengers who wished to return to Wuhan”. Flight TR120 from Singapore to Wuhan departed Singapore at 10.20pm on Wednesday and landed at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport at about 3.00am on Thursday. 

Thereafter, “the return flight TR121 departed Wuhan for Singapore at about 7am on 30 January 2020, carrying Singapore citizens who were in Wuhan”. It landed in Singapore at about 11.39am.

The airline added that temperature screening was conducted at check-in and before boarding, and any passengers who had a fever were not allowed to board. “Surgical masks were provided to all passengers, and all operating crew were required to wear N95 masks and surgical gloves on board the flights. The flight operated with limited in-flight service, where there was no distribution of food and beverages or sale of duty-free products. Food packs were pre-placed on the seats,” the airline added. This, it said, greatly limited any physical interaction between passengers and crew.

“The aircraft was disinfected in Wuhan before boarding commenced for TR121, as well as upon arrival in Singapore.”

Volunteer flight crew

In a Facebook post on Thursday, labour chief Ng Chee Meng revealed that when a call went out for volunteer flight crew members to bring Singaporeans back from Wuhan, there were more volunteers than was needed.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our Scoot Staff Union leaders and members for stepping forward to serve our fellow Singaporeans without hesitation,” said Ng.

(INFOGRAPHIC: Yahoo News Singapore)