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Singapore and Hong Kong agree to open a travel bubble

The quarantine-free travel bubble between the two cities is set to open from 26th May 2021.

Both Singapore and Hong Kong had decided to open a travel bubble back in November 2020 but a sudden increase in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong delayed it.

The said bubble will prove to be a huge step towards boosting the tourism industries of the respective cities as tourism is an important aspect of both the economies.

If this travel bubble opens as planned, it will be the second major airplane route in the Asia-Pacific region after Australia and New Zealand resumed flights on 19th April 2021.

I am happy that Hong Kong got the Covid-19 situation under control. It has been a long few months, but the conditions are now ripe again to re-launch the ATB (Air Travel Bubble)

Said Mr Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s Minister for Transport in an emailed statement, according to BBC.

Here’s how the bubble will work:

With just one flight a day in each direction, the travel bubble will open with caution and will carry a maximum of 200 passengers for the first two weeks.

Passengers from both the cities are required to take a test within three days prior their departure and again on arrival; while, passengers from Hong Kong are also required to be vaccinated.

Also, before departing, passengers from both cities will be required to download each other’s contact-tracing app. The said bubble will be suspended for at least two weeks if the seven-day moving average of unlinked community cases in either city increases to more than five.

This approach sounds stricter than the one which Australia and New Zealand adopted where with the launch of their travel bubble, hundreds of flights a week were scheduled.

Our goal remains striking a right balance between public health and travel convenience so that the public will feel assured while providing certainty

said Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development.

Important for the airline industry

If the travel bubble opens as planned, it will be a major boom for the airline industry in both the countries. Singapore Airlines and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific are some of the most badly-hit by the pandemic. The two airlines have been hammered by COVID-19 as they don’t have domestic markets to compensate for a near-total collapse in international travel. Latest data show Cathay Pacific flew just 598 passengers a day on average in March as it operated a skeleton schedule to only 18 destinations. Singapore Airlines’ numbers are also just a tiny fraction of pre-pandemic levels.

Travel Bubbles: A trouble

If the airlines are happy that flights will resume between the two countries, their optimism might be tempered by the challenges that the other travel bubbles have posed so far.

The Trans-Tasman Bubble between Australia and New Zealand has not been smooth. Within just a day of opening the bubble, a cleaner at Auckland airport who had been fully vaccinated tested positive for COVID-19 though officials said the case was not linked to the bubble.

After that, New Zealand paused flights from the land of Kangaroos just days after the trans-Tasman travel bubble reopened due to a traveller testing positive for COVID in Perth.

It will be interesting to see how the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble works out and how will it go.

What do you think of Singapore’s travel bubble with Hong Kong? Do you think it will start as planned? Let me know in the comments section below.

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