Hong Kong and Singapore to start out long-delayed journey bubble subsequent month

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Cathay Pacific employees walk through Hong Kong International Airport on October 21, 2020.

PETER PARKS | AFP | Getty Images

A long-belated travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will begin on May 26, the two cities said on Monday as they relocated to re-establish overseas travel links and overcome the quarantine hurdle for foreigners.

The bubble between two of Asia’s largest financial centers was supposed to start last November but was suspended after a surge in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong.

The program will begin with one flight per day to each city, with up to 200 travelers per flight, Hong Kong Trade Minister Edward Yau and Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Ku said at press events.

If you want to travel from one of the two cities, you must test negative for Covid-19 before departure and upon arrival. Hong Kong residents can also fly to Singapore only at least 14 days after two doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

Travelers on the route who attracted 15 to 20 flights a day before the coronavirus do not need to be quarantined, and the purpose of the trip is not subject to any restrictions.

However, if the 7-day moving average of the daily number of unrelated local Covid-19 cases for Singapore or Hong Kong is more than five, the program will be suspended, Yau and Ong said.

“The restart … means that a gradual resumption of cross-border travel can be achieved through mutual collaboration between different locations,” said Yau.

For Hong Kong, which has banned foreigners since March 2020, the agreement with Singapore is the first bilateral resumption of travel relations with another city.

Eligible residents of mainland Hong Kong and Macau will be exempted from quarantine in the Asian financial city as early as this week, Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip said Monday. Singapore has already made some pacts on important business and official travel and is unilaterally open to general visitors from countries such as Brunei Darussalam, China and New Zealand. Singapore has also discussed an air travel bubble with Australia.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore said they are in talks with places like New Zealand and Australia over similar travel bubbles. The Asian cities have largely brought the local virus situation under control compared to other developed cities.

However, new cases have emerged over the past week. Hong Kong reported the local transmission of a variant of Covid-19 with the mutated strain N501Y and Singapore investigated possible cases of Covid-19 reinfection in a dormitory for migrant workers. The dormitories have been at the center of the Singapore outbreak last year, with thousands of cases.

Singapore work permit holders who work in the construction, shipyard or process sectors, many of whom live in dormitories, are excluded from the bubble.

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines would be the airlines for the first flights, authorities said.

“In order to successfully build this bubble, we will likely have a significant signaling effect for the rest of the world,” said Ong from Singapore.

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