Twice-postponed Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble to be reviewed in early July, says Singapore’s Transport Ministry

Streetscapes in Singapore (left) and Hong Kong (right). The proposed air travel bubble between the two cities will be reviewed in early July 2021. ― Unsplash pic via TODAY
Streetscapes in Singapore (left) and Hong Kong (right). The proposed air travel bubble between the two cities will be reviewed in early July 2021. ― Unsplash pic via TODAY

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SINGAPORE, June 11 — With the Covid-19 situation here improving, Singapore and Hong Kong have agreed to review their public health situation in early July before reaching a decision on a revived launch of the air travel bubble, the Ministry of Transport announced yesterday (June 10).

The launch of the travel bubble, designed to allow travellers to move freely between both places if they test negative for Covid-19, has been postponed twice.

It was first put on hold in November last year after a rise in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong and again in May this year after cases spiked in Singapore.

A press release by the ministry yesterday said: “Since then, the Covid-19 situation in Singapore has improved, with the number of community cases and local unlinked Covid-19 cases showing a downward trend.

“Hong Kong’s Covid-19 situation continues to remain stable, with very few community cases over the past few weeks.”

The ministry added that both sides remain “strongly committed” to launching the air travel bubble safely and it will continue to monitor the public health situation in both places closely.

“Both Transport Minister S Iswaran and Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau have maintained close contact and agreed that both sides would review the situation in early July, before making a decision on the target launch dates of the air travel bubble flights.”

As part of an agreement by both sides, once the bubble is up and running, it will be suspended for at least 14 days if the seven-day moving average of community cases with no known origin surpasses five, whether in Singapore or Hong Kong.

For the bubble to resume, the seven-day moving average in Hong Kong and Singapore must not exceed five on the last day of the 14-day suspension or any subsequent day.

The current seven-day moving average for Singapore is 11.9, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung disclosed yesterday.

The other conditions are:

There must be three consecutive days when the daily number of Covid-19 cases with no known origin in both cities does not exceed three

The seven-day moving average of infections with no known origin should not exceed five cases in both places on the last of these three consecutive days

Travel bubble with South Korea

Reports have also emerged of South Korea being keen to speed up travel bubble talks with Singapore.

In response to media queries on this yesterday, Ong, who co-chairs the government's Covid-19 task force, said that there are no firm plans to launch a travel bubble with South Korea or other regions yet — given that Singapore is only just recovering from the recent wave of infections.

Ong, who had until recently helmed the Ministry of Transport, was speaking at a press conference by the government’s Covid-19 task force.

Unlike the “ambitious” bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore, which involves pre-departure and on-arrival testing and does not require travellers on either side to quarantine upon arrival, Mr Ong said that South Korea’s concept of a travel bubble is different.

In South Korea’s case, a bubble involves allowing travel between both sides if infections on either side are kept to very low levels. Travellers must also be vaccinated and adopt precautions such as Covid-19 testing before departure and upon arrival at their destinations, Ong said.

“I think these are concepts that we need to think about for the medium term and definitely not in this period when we are just recovering from this weave of transmission and opening up in stages,” Ong added.

“But I think it’s always good that we cast our mind several months down the road because we do need to live normally and resume normalcy and that must include some travelling to safe places in a safe way.” ― TODAY

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