Singapore authorities to update public on air travel arrangement with Hong Kong ‘shortly’, as Covid-19 situation in Chinese city worsens

An employee waits for customers at a counter for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon at Hong Kong International Airport October 20, 2020. — AFP pic
An employee waits for customers at a counter for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon at Hong Kong International Airport October 20, 2020. — AFP pic

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SINGAPORE, Nov 21 — The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said that it is working closely with the Ministry of Health to gather the facts on the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong, and will "update the public shortly".

The Chinese city recorded 26 new coronavirus cases yesterday, two days before the air travel bubble arrangement between Hong Kong and Singapore begins.

CAAS said in a statement yesterday: "Some members of public have asked if the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble will proceed this coming Sunday, 22 November 2020, given that Hong Kong recorded 26 cases today and Health Secretary Sophia Chan has described the situation as ‘severe’."

“We are working closely with the Singapore Ministry of Health to gather the facts, and will update the public shortly. The Singapore and Hong Kong Governments are in close contact on the situation.”

The air travel bubble arrangement, announced on November 11, allows all forms of travel. 

There will be one flight a day into each city with a maximum of 200 travellers every flight, with this increasing to two flights a day into each city from December 7. 

Under the arrangement, travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will be subject to polymerase chain reaction Covid-19 tests in lieu of a quarantine or stay-home notice period.

Travellers must take the test within 72 hours before their scheduled departure and receive a negative result.

Those headed to Hong Kong will also need to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival. Travellers must also only travel via designated flights run by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Based on the agreement between Singapore and Hong Kong, this travel arrangement could be suspended if the seven-day moving average for unlinked coronavirus infections exceeds five in either city.

Of the 26 new coronavirus infections in Hong Kong yesterday, 21 are local cases. It moved the city's authorities to suspend classes for Primary 1 to 3 students for two weeks from Monday.

Hong Kong's health secretary Sophia Chan said: “I would appeal to people to stop all unnecessary gathering activities because the situation is severe now in Hong Kong.” 

Professor Chan said that Hong Kong has "probably entered into a new wave of cases", referring to experts and information from the Centre for Health Protection.

“But of course, we are now doing our best, and before this severe situation started, in the past week, we have already tightened many of our measures, including border control measures, quarantine measures, hotel regulation measures, and also some of the social distancing measures," she said.

‘Nothing much can be done’

Travellers here who were set to jet off on the first flight to Hong Kong when the travel bubble kicks in tomorrow said that even though they were disappointed with the latest developments, they agreed that the authorities should call the arrangement off if the situation in Hong Kong persists.

“Right now with everything that is going on, you can’t really expect too much because all it takes is one cluster or super spreader event to happen,” said Aaron Wong, 32, founder of travel site The MileLion.

Anticipating that there would be hiccups along the way, Wong said he made his plans flexible so that he would not lose out much financially should the trip have to be called off or postponed.

He added that he would also alter his itinerary and spend less time sight-seeing and going out to restaurants if the travel bubble proceeds but cases in Hong Kong continue to rise.

“It would probably be more like a Hong Kong staycation,” said Wong.

Hendric Tay, 33, co-founder of travel publication The Travel Intern, told TODAY that for now, he’s taking a “wait and see” approach as there is nothing much he can do but wait for more news to come out.

“To be honest I’m a little disappointed (but) at the end of the day, safety is the most important thing.“Travel can always wait,” he said. — TODAY

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