Screening for MERS at Changi Airport begins

Screening for MERS at Changi Airport begins
Passengers arriving from Doha walking past a thermal scanner at an aerobridge in Changi Airport yesterday.

Travellers on six flights from the Middle East had their temperatures screened yesterday at Changi Airport, as Singapore stepped up precautions against the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers).

The Straits Times understands that more than 1,200 passengers, who arrived from Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi, walked past thermal scanners located at the aerobridge.

The flights the passengers were on belonged to three carriers - Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. The first landed yesterday at nearly 2pm, and the last touched down after 10pm.

The Straits Times understands that, as of press time, no one on the first five flights was pulled aside for further checks.

Yesterday marked the start of Singapore's temperature screening for air travellers from Mers-affected Middle East countries, including the worst-hit Saudi Arabia, which has reported five new deaths from Mers, bringing the death toll to 168 as of Saturday. Changi Airport receives some 50,000 travellers from the Middle East every month.

The screening is a pre-emptive measure to help detect travellers who might have caught Mers.

No cases of the virus have been found here yet. Since the start of this year, there have been 48 suspected Mers cases here, but all tested negative.

Mrs Jacqueline Lim, 29, who was on the first flight from Doha yesterday, said it is good that the authorities have stepped up pre-emptive efforts.

"You never know how the disease can spread, so it's better to be safe than sorry," said the account manager.

Doctors stationed at Changi Airport will recheck the temperatures of travellers from Mers-affected countries if they feel feverish. If Mers is suspected, the travellers will be taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital or KK Women's and Children's Hospital for more tests.

The Ministry of Health will also follow up with daily phone calls to the affected passengers to check on their condition. If it worsens, they will be asked to see a doctor.

Considered a deadlier but less transmissible cousin of the Sars virus, Mers was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

The virus, which has no cure so far, appears to cause a lung infection, with patients having difficulty breathing, coughing and developing a high temperature.

ateng@sph.com.sg

This article was published in The Straits Times.

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