Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble launch deferred for 2 weeks after COVID-19 cases spike in Hong Kong

Asia

SINGAPORE: The launch of an air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong has been deferred for two weeks after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Saturday afternoon (Nov 21).

The air travel bubble was supposed to start on Sunday.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Mr Ong said he has held discussions with Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau about the travel bubble.

“Given the evolving situation in Hong Kong, (Mr) Yau and I discussed further this afternoon and decided that it would be better to defer the launch of the air travel bubble by two weeks,” Mr Ong said.

“We will review within two weeks on the new launch date and update again.

“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint.” 

The airlines will be contacting travellers individually, the transport minister added.

On Saturday, Hong Kong reported 43 new COVID-19 cases, of which 36 were locally transmitted.

“In the light of the recent surge of local cases, we have decided, together with the Singapore government, to defer the air travel bubble’s launch by two weeks,” Mr Yau told reporters in Hong Kong.

“This is a sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs. But we will press on and look forward to when we can safely launch the air travel bubble,” said Mr Ong.

TRAVELLERS ON NON TRAVEL BUBBLE FLIGHTS CAN GO AHEAD

Under the air travel bubble, travellers would have to take dedicated flights operated by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said on Saturday that travellers may still continue their journey on non-designated air travel bubble flights.

“However, such travellers will be subject to the prevailing border control and health requirements of both cities,” said CAAS in a media release. 

For example, Singapore residents returning from Hong Kong will be subject to a seven day stay-home notice upon entry into Singapore.

SITUATION IN HONG KONG “SEVERE”

Earlier on Saturday morning, Mr Ong said there was a “high chance” of the air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong being suspended if the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong continued on its current trajectory.

READ: Air travel bubbles, more green lanes part of plans for Singapore to ‘revive’ Changi Air Hub amid COVID-19 – Ong Ye Kung

Under the terms of the travel bubble, the arrangement would be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases exceeds five per day in either city.

Hong Kong has seen a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, a situation the city’s Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan described on Friday as “severe“. 

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