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Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble postponed by two weeks

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Passengers walking near Cathay Pacific check-in counters at Hong Kong International Airport on Oct 20, 2020. — AFP pic
Passengers walking near Cathay Pacific check-in counters at Hong Kong International Airport on Oct 20, 2020. — AFP pic

SINGAPORE, Nov 22 — The Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble will be postponed for two weeks, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced yesterday evening, just hours after the Singapore Government said that the arrangement would continue as planned today.

In a Facebook post, Ong said that given the evolving situation in Hong Kong, the decision was made to defer the launch by two weeks after a discussion with Hong Kong Commerce Secretary Edward Yau.

The situation will be reviewed within two weeks and updates on a new launch date will be given then, he added.

“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 the travellers individually,” he wrote.

“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.”

Yau was reported in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) saying that Singapore and Hong Kong decided on the postponement “in the interest of making a good start” and also to avoid any confusion among passengers.

In a press release yesterday evening, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said that the decision to postpone the air travel bubble is to safeguard public health in both cities as well as travellers’ own health.

Earlier yesterday, it had announced that the arrangement would go ahead but with the added precaution of having all Hong Kong passengers arriving in Singapore under this arrangement take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at Changi Airport.

These travellers were also supposed to self-isolate in their accommodation till the results of the PCR test were known, which would take six to eight hours.

The extra requirement was a precautionary measure given the rise of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong over the past few days with more cases expected over the next few days due to the emergence of new clusters.

The city recorded 43 new coronavirus cases yesterday ,13 of which could not be traced, SCMP said.

The authorities in the two cities had already said that the arrangement will be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases exceeds five a day.

The figure for Hong Kong is now at 3.86.

Although the threshold of five has not been reached yet, the authorities expect the situation in Hong Kong to worsen in the coming days, SCMP added.

The threshold of five will be exceeded if there are more than 22 unlinked cases in Hong Kong over the next three days.

The air travel bubble arrangement, announced on Nov 11, was to allow all forms of travel from Nov 22 with designated flights each day and travellers having to take PCR tests in lieu of a quarantine or stay-home notice period.

In its statement yesterday, CAAS said 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.

For example, Singapore residents returning from Hong Kong will have to serve a seven-day stay-home notice upon entry into Singapore. — TODAY

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