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Travel Bubble Between Singapore and Hong Kong Popped One Day Before it Even Opened

Travel Bubble Between Singapore and Hong Kong Popped One Day Before it Even Opened

A travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong has been suspended for at least two weeks with just one day to go before the first quarantine-free flights between the two cities were set to depart. The news comes as health officials in Hong Kong prepare to battle a probable fourth wave of the novel Coronavirus in the territory following the news that 26 confirmed and 40 preliminary cases were identified on Friday.

Officials in Singapore and Hong Kong announced the so-called travel bubble on November 11 and the first flights were scheduled to take-off on Sunday. Under the arrangement, visitors between the two cities aren’t subjected to stringent quarantine requirements, although they do have to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate dated within 72 hours of travel.

On Saturday, however, Singapore’s Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung revealed that the travel bubble would be put on ice for at least two weeks “given the evolving COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong”. Passengers will still be able to fly between the two cities but will be subjected to quarantine restrictions.

Specially designated travel bubble flights had proved widely popular with services fully booked through to the end of November. The Hong Kong Tourist Board said just days ago that it was “eagerly” waiting to welcome visitors from Singapore pending the start of the travel bubble.

Ronald Lam, chief commercial officer at Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said he saw the travel bubble as a “milestone” and hoped to see similar arrangements being reached with other destinations in the region, as well as further afield. Any travel bubble talks will now, however, have to wait.

Before temporarily popping the travel bubble, Singapore had already drawn up plans to test visitors on arrival as an “additional precautionary safeguard”. The on-arrival COVID-19 test will cost S$196 per passenger and visitors will need to self-isolate in their hotel or residence until the test results are returned.

Under the terms of the travel bubble agreement, a built-in safeguard would allow the bubble to be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases in either city exceeded five per day.

The rolling average for Hong Kong is currently at 2.14 but the threshold will be exceeded if there are more than 22 unlinked cases over the next three days. Once breached, travellers are given 48-hours notice before quarantine restrictions are put into effect.

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