Hong Kong and Singapore announced Thursday they will no longer be pursuing a travel bubble, following twice-thwarted plans and “differences in the anti-epidemic strategies currently adopted by the two places.”
In a press release, a Hong Kong government spokesperson said the travel bubble was predicated on both cities adopting similar approaches to tackling COVID-19, but that Singapore has since moved towards a strategy of “building a ‘COVID-resilient’ nation”—i.e. accepting the outbreak as endemic and returning cautiously to normalcy.
The Southeast Asian nation said earlier that it is shifting away from its COVID-zero plan, and instead will focus on containing clusters. Hong Kong, on the other hand, is still bent on eliminating local spread of the virus.
Talks for the bubble began between the cities—seen as pandemic poster children for their relative success in handling the virus—last year. The arrangement was hailed as a potential blueprint for a return to regional travel.
But the arrangement fell through twice: last November when Hong Kong reported a spike in cases, and again in May, when Singapore saw a dramatic increase in local virus cases.
While the bubble is dead, Singapore—which leads Asia in vaccination rates, with over 75% of the population double jabbed—will be allowing quarantine-free travel from Hong Kong starting Saturday. Unvaccinated Hong Kong residents would still have to complete a 21-day hotel quarantine upon return, however, while those who are vaccinated can stay 14 days in a hotel and self-monitor at home for seven days.
This article, Over before it began: Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble pronounced dead, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.