Airport safety protocols mostly up and running | THE DAILY HERALD

Passengers waiting in the airport’s departure hall.

AIRPORT–The additional health and safety protocols at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) are mostly operational as of Thursday, with staff being equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE), restricted boarding procedures and the terminal building being limited to passengers and staff only.

However, the Health Ministry’s Collective Prevention Services (CPS) does not yet have the capacity to conduct on-site coronavirus testing and additional staff are currently being trained to use the infrared machinery that will test arriving passengers’ body temperature.

The Daily Herald was given a tour of the airport terminal building on Thursday afternoon, just as passengers were preparing to depart on an Air France flight to Paris, France.

There are two hand sanitising stations at the airport terminal’s main entrance. Stationed there too is a security guard, checking to see if persons entering the building are wearing a face mask and are travellers. Persons cannot enter the building if they are not wearing a face mask or are not passengers.

After checking in, passengers proceed to the first security checkpoint, which has been outfitted with a glass shield. Passengers must scan their own boarding passes via a contactless reader at this checkpoint too, limiting interaction between staff and passengers.

In the departure lounge, every other seat is marked with a sign that encourages persons to adhere to social distancing and to refrain from sitting too closely together. Passengers had enough space to do that on Thursday, with Air France being the only trans-continental flight leaving that afternoon.

Airport authorities placed additional signs in the terminal to encourage persons to wash their hands frequently, to wear their face masks and to maintain social distancing. The airport has also added contactless hand-washing stations throughout the terminal.

Staff were seen wearing face masks in the terminal building consistently, as were most of the passengers. However, several were seen not wearing a face mask in the departure lounge, presumably having taken it off after going through airport security. Others took off their face masks while eating food from one of the airport’s concession stands or having a drink at the bar.  Social distancing broke down when passengers queued to board their France-bound flight, and passengers bunched up while waiting for gate agents to scan their boarding cards.

However, gate agents allowed only one family to walk to the aircraft at a time, momentarily restoring social distancing requirements.

This broke down again after passengers climbed the stairs to the aircraft’s door, creating another congested queue.

Arriving passengers must pass through an infrared camera, which is monitored by a staff member from CPS. This camera checks arriving passengers’ body temperature.

Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA Richard Panneflek said earlier this month CPS was in the final process of hiring seven staff members to screen persons entering the island at PJIA. These persons were given a training session with the infrared machinery on Thursday.

CPS workers screening the body temperature of arriving passengers were expected to give a rapid-result coronavirus test to passengers exhibiting coronavirus symptoms. However, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever said on Tuesday as the featured guest on an online series that the country currently does not have the capacity to test persons on arrival. She also said this would not be in place until August.

There were no CPS workers in the departure lounge when this newspaper was being given the tour.

Health signs and hand-sanitising stations are also placed in the arrival hall.

Source: The Daily Herald