A long-awaited quarantine-free travel agreement between Hong Kong and Singapore due to begin on May 26 after several false starts may not go ahead due to a rise in coronavirus cases in Singapore.
Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said Friday there’s a “high chance” the so-called travel bubble might not proceed as scheduled, dealing another blow to a border-opening plan that was initially set to happen last November.
Hong Kong and Singapore have both taken strict measures to combat virus outbreaks that in terms of caseloads pale in comparison to other parts of the world: Hong Kong has reported a total of 11,817 cases and 210 deaths, while Singapore’s had about 63,000 cases — mostly in worker dormitories — and 31 deaths. Countries elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Australia and New Zealand, which recently launched a bilateral travel bubble, have kept virus cases low with stringent border controls.
Singapore is now trying to combat a growing virus outbreak, which includes a cluster at the city’s iconic Changi Airport. Dozens of cases have been linked to the airport, prompting the closure of two terminals and the Jewel complex.
Friday’s comments from Yau could dash the hopes of many people planning to fly between the two financial hubs for business and to reunite with friends and family for the first time in months. Even if the bubble does go ahead, visitors to Singapore will likely encounter tighter social-distancing restrictions given the outbreak there.
The bubble was due to start last November but was shelved then because of an outbreak in Hong Kong.
“We hope to give a more perfect answer early next week as to when and the bubble arrangement would be launched or otherwise,” Yau said at a briefing Friday following a conversation with his counterparts in Singapore.
“The Singapore minister told me that there might be a high chance that the bubble arrangement may not be able to resume under the agreed mechanism as we scheduled on May 26,” Yau said, referring to Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kong, who is moving on from his role this weekend following a cabinet reshuffle. “We will be reviewing the situation particularly in the next couple of days,” Yau said.
Singapore Airlines Ltd.was down 2.5% at 1:03 p.m., while Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. was little changed. The two carriers are scheduled to operate flights in the travel bubble.
People in Hong Kong and Singapore, irrespective of nationality
No travel to other places in the 14 days prior to departure
|Testing||Negative result collected within 72 hours of flying|
|Vaccine||Hong Kong residents need to finish two vaccine doses at least 14 days before flight. Exceptions include under 16s, people who can’t get vaccinated due to medical reasons, passengers using non-Hong Kong travel documents and travelers who have been in Hong Kong less than 90 days before departure|
|Flight arrangements||May 26 to June 9, one daily flight with 200 travelers to and from both cities. From June 10, two flights a day. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will operate the flights|
|Contact tracing||Travelers must use local contact-tracing mobile applications and records are retained for up to 31 days|
|Other requirements||Submit required passes or declaration before arrival, take Covid-19 test at the airports|
|Mechanism||If the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local cases is more than five in either place, the bubble will be suspended for two weeks. Unlinked local cases exclude Singapore dormitory residents|
(Updates with comments from Edward Yau.)