The long-anticipated travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong, due to commence on May 26, has been postponed for a second time. The move comes following a recent rise in COVID cases. The travel bubble was initially supposed to have been launched on November 22 last year.
During a meeting this morning in Singapore between Singapore’s Minister for Transport, S Iswaran, and the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Edward Yau, both agreed that the travel bubble would have to wait given the current situation.
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Both sides are committed to the bubble
In a statement released by The Singapore Ministry of Transport regarding the postponement of the travel bubble, it says:
“Both sides remain strongly committed to launching the ATB safely. However, in light of the recent increase in unlinked community cases, Singapore is unable to meet the criteria to start the Singapore-Hong Kong ATB. Both sides, therefore, agreed to defer the launch of the ATB to protect the health of travelers and the public in these two places.”
Both Hong Kong and Singapore had previously agreed that any travel between the two mega financial hubs would be suspended when weekly cases in either city increased to more than five.
As of today, the seven-day moving average of community cases in Singapore rose to six. So far this month, Singapore has recorded 112 infections compared with 55 in April and nine in March. In contrast, Hong Kong confirmed just one imported case of COVID-19 on Friday, marking the seventh straight day without a local infection.
Singapore tightens restrictions
Regarding the postponement, a Hong Kong government spokesman said that the two cities would continue to monitor the situation, including the anti-epidemic measures introduced by the Singapore government yesterday. The spokesperson said that the two cities would look at the travel bubble again towards the end of Singapore’s heightened alert, which is due to finish on June 13.
The new measures introduced to help combat the spread of the virus include:
- People will be allowed out in groups of only two
- Households will not be allowed to receive more than two visitors per day
- Individuals should cap their social gatherings at two a day
- Bars and restaurants can offer only takeaway and delivery
- Working from home will be mandatory when it is possible to do so
- Schools will be closed and moved online
Restrictions even with a travel bubble
Under the rules of the travel bubble, people traveling in either direction would have to take a PCR test before the flights and then again after landing. For Hong Kong residents to travel, the Hong Kong government requires its citizens and residents to be fully vaccinated.
Originally the plan was to allow for one flight a day each way on Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, carrying 200 passengers. If the Singapore and Hong Kong infection rates remained stable, the flights would be increased to two a day starting June 10.
The main concern at the moment appears to be the Indian B.1.617 strain of the coronavirus that experts believe is a more transmissible variant of COVID-19.
What do you think about the Hong Kong and Singapore travel bubble, and do you think it is something other counties should take a look at? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.