Decision to suspend HK-Singapore travel bubble was made jointly, based on ‘clear parameters’, says minister

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on November 21, 2020 that the air travel arrangements between Singapore and Hong Kong would be postponed for two weeks. — Reuters pic
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on November 21, 2020 that the air travel arrangements between Singapore and Hong Kong would be postponed for two weeks. — Reuters pic

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SINGAPORE, Nov 24 — The decision to suspend the air travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was made jointly by both cities and based on parameters that had been set out earlier, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday. 

When asked for the reasons the authorities decided to suspend the air travel bubble, Chan said clear parameters, such as the threshold on the number of Covid-19 cases, had been set when both Hong Kong and Singapore agreed to launch the bubble, which will allow all forms of travel without travellers being subjected to a quarantine. 

These parameters also set out when a suspension would be necessary.The authorities in the two cities have previously said that the arrangement would be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases in either city exceeds five a day. 

On Saturday, authorities made a U-turn on whether the air travel bubble could continue as planned, after Hong Kong reported an increase in the number of Covid-19 infections. 

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the city recorded 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, 13 of which could not be traced. 

The seven-day moving average of unlinked cases in Hong Kong is now 3.86.

Although the threshold of five has not been reached yet, the authorities expect the situation in Hong Kong to worsen in the coming days, SCMP added. 

The threshold of five will be exceeded if there are more than 22 unlinked cases in Hong Kong over the next three days. 

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said on Saturday morning that the arrangement would go ahead and start on Sunday, but with an extra condition that travellers entering Singapore would have to take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test at Changi Airport. 

But this decision was reversed hours later on the same day, when Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that the air travel arrangements would be postponed for two weeks. 

During a briefing to reporters on the release of Singapore’s third-quarter economic growth figures, Chan was asked why authorities made their U-turn within a few hours. 

He responded that authorities from both cities came to a fast agreement after they observed that conditions had evolved, but did not specifically say which parameters of the air travel bubble deal had been breached.

 “Actually, every day, the Hong Kong authorities will present the numbers and they share the numbers with us, we share our numbers with them. So once the threshold is reached, then we will make the decisions jointly,” he said.

“As and when there is new information available by both sides, we will share with one another. And once we look at those numbers, we apply the framework to them and we make a joint decision.” ― TODAY

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