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Travel Bubble Between Hong Kong and Singapore Pushed Back to 2021 as COVID-19 Cases “Increase Rapidly”

Travel Bubble Between Hong Kong and Singapore Pushed Back to 2021 as COVID-19 Cases “Increase Rapidly”

A landmark ‘travel bubble’ between Singapore and Hong Kong has been pushed back to 2021 as authorities in the Chinese territory warned that the number of new COVID-19 cases from unknown sources was “increasing rapidly” and urged residents to avoid social gatherings. The quarantine-free travel bubble had been due to launch on November 22 but was initially delayed by two weeks as a fourth wave of Coronavirus infections swept across Hong Kong.

“Singapore and Hong Kong have further reviewed the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong, and given that local unlinked cases are still high, both parties have decided to defer the commencement of the Singapore – Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) to beyond December 2020,” said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore on Tuesday. The agency did not provide a preliminary date for when the bubble might be opened.

Photo Credit: Cathay Pacific

Initially announced on November 11, the travel bubble would have allowed residents of either city to travel freely without the need to go into mandatory quarantine so long as they presented a negative COVID-19 test certificate. The deal was made possible through the apparent success of both Singapore and Hong Kong in controlling the novel Coronavirus.

But with just days to go before the first travel bubble flight was meant to take-off, health officials in Hong Kong identified a new cluster of locally transmitted cases linked to dance studios. As of Monday, officials had identified 520 cases linked to the dance club cluster.

A built-in circuit breaker meant the travel bubble would be popped if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases exceeds five per day. The rolling average in Hong Kong has since risen to 18.

Passengers can still travel between Hong Kong and Singapore but they must comply with local quarantine restrictions.

The apparent failure of Singapore and Hong Kong’s travel bubble has raised doubts over how such deals can successfully restart international travel while keeping people safe from COVID-19.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has instead urged governments to lift travel restrictions through the use of pre-departure testing although critics point out that testing alone would not stop all positive cases crossing borders without being detected.

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