Singapore, April 26
Singapore and Hong Kong on Monday agreed to set May 26 as the launch date of the air travel bubble after the pandemic situation eased in the two major global aviation and financial hubs, months after calling off a similar agreement that would ease travel restrictions.
They reviewed the arrangements and made several improvements to the agreement, including stricter conditions for the resumption of the travel bubble, should it be suspended due to new COVID-19 community clusters in either city, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport said.
The travel bubble was originally scheduled to begin in November last year, but was deferred due to a spike in infections in Hong Kong.
“The COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong has improved, with very few local unlinked COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks. Community cases in Singapore remained very low throughout the time,” said the ministry.
“The risk profiles of both cities are therefore now similar,” it said.
Both the cities will closely monitor the COVID-19 situation from now to May 26, and will proceed with the launch “if the situation continues to be steady and under control in both cities”, the ministry said.
The Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble will begin “cautiously”, with one flight a day in each direction, with a cap of 200 passengers per flight, it said, adding that the numbers will be reviewed after the first two weeks.
Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said the travel bubble is a significant move between two aviation and financial services hubs in Asia.
“I am happy that Hong Kong got the COVID-19 situation under control,” Channel News Asia quoted the minister as saying.
“It has been a long few months, but the conditions are now ripe again to re-launch the ATB. Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next one month, so that we can launch the first flights smoothly,” Ong said.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said that the two governments have reached a consensus on the latest travel bubble arrangements, and will put in place more stringent public health protocols in response to the latest COVID-19 development.
“Our goal remains striking a right balance between public health and travel convenience so that the public will feel assured while providing certainty,” the Channel quoted Yau as saying.
“The re-launch of ATB not only meets the aspirations of the people and business communities on cross-border travel, but also signifies that gradual resumption of cross-border travel is achievable through mutual collaborations among different places.
“We will continue to maintain communication with the Singapore Government and closely monitor the epidemic development of both places to ensure the smooth launch of ATB,” he added.
The travel bubble will be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked community cases in either city increases to above five. It can only resume when the COVID-19 situation has stabilised, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).
Under the travel bubble, there are no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirements for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship. Visitors have to take pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 swab tests and travel on designated flights operated by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. PTI