Hong Kong and Singapore to start quarantine-free travel bubble next month

The agreement was due to kick-off last November, but had been delayed after a rise in Covid-19 cases

Singapore (pictured) and Hong Kong are set to resurrect their scrapped travel bubble with dedicated flights between the two cities starting on May 26. AFP
Singapore (pictured) and Hong Kong are set to resurrect their scrapped travel bubble with dedicated flights between the two cities starting on May 26. AFP

A long-delayed travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will begin next month, the two cities said on Monday, as they moved to re-establish travel links and lift the hurdle of quarantine for visiting foreigners.

The bubble between two of Asia's biggest financial hubs had been slated to begin last November but was suspended after a spike in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong.

The scheme will start with one flight a day into each city from May 26, with up to 200 travellers on each flight, said Hong Kong's Commerce Secretary Edward Yau and Singapore's Transport Minister Ong Ye Ku.

Those wanting to travel from either city must test negative for Covid-19 before departure and on arrival. Hong Kong residents can also only fly to Singapore at least 14 days after they have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Travellers on the route – which attracted 15 to 20 flights a day each way before the pandemic – won't have to quarantine and there will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel.

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

"The relaunch ... signifies that gradual resumption of cross-border travel is achievable through mutual collaborations among different places," said Yau.

For Hong Kong, which has banned non-residents from entering the country since March 2020, the deal with Singapore is its first bilateral resumption of travel ties with another city.

Eligible Hong Kong residents in the mainland and Macau will be exempt from quarantine in the Asian city from as early as this week, Secretary for the Civil Service, Patrick Nip, said on Monday. Singapore already has some pacts on essential business and official travel, and has opened unilaterally to general visitors from countries including Brunei, China and New Zealand.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 28, 2020, visitors walk along a viewing platform on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Hong Kong and Singapore announced on April 26, 2021 plans to resurrect their scrapped coronavirus travel bubble with dedicated flights between the two cities starting on May 26. / AFP / Afp / ANTHONY WALLACE
Hong Kong has banned non-residents from entering the country since March 2020. AFP

Both Hong Kong and Singapore said they are in talks with countries including New Zealand and Australia for similar travel bubbles.

The cities have brought the local virus situation largely under control, compared with other developed cities. New cases, however, have inched up in the past week, with Hong Kong reporting local transmission of a Covid-19 variant and Singapore investigating possible reinfection cases at a migrant worker dormitory. The dormitories were at the centre of Singapore's outbreak in 2020 with thousands of cases.

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

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines would be the carriers for the initial flights, authorities said.

"To get this bubble up successfully, I think we'll have a significant signalling effect to the rest of the world," said Singapore's Ong.

Updated: May 2, 2021 01:35 PM

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