Singapore and Hong Kong will soon implement a travel bubble that exempts residents from both cities from quarantine or Stay-Home Notice (SHN), Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on Thursday, Oct. 15.
Travel bubble with Hong Kong to help revive cross-border air travel safely
According to Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT), both cities have reached an in-principle agreement to establish a bilateral Air Travel Bubble (ATB).
This milestone arrangement is meant to help revive cross-border air travel between the two aviation hubs, in a safe and progressive way.
The in-principle agreement was reached during a videoconference on Oct. 14 between Ong and Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau.
The key features of the ATB are as follows:
- There are no restrictions on travel purpose;
- Travellers under the ATB will be subject to mutually recognised Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and would need to have negative test results;
- Travellers under the ATB will not be subject to any quarantine or SHN requirements, or a controlled itinerary;
- Travellers under the ATB will be required to travel on dedicated flights, i.e., these flights will only serve ATB travellers and no transit passengers or non-ATB travellers will be allowed on board; and
- The ATB can be scaled by adjusting the number of dedicated flights upwards or downwards, or even suspended, in line with the latest developments and Covid-19 situation in the two cities.
Singapore and Hong Kong enjoy strong trade, investment, finance, tourism and people-to-people ties.
Both cities are major aviation hubs, and the international air route between the two cities was among the busiest in the Asia-Pacific region pre-Covid-19, according to MOT.
Travel links between Singapore and Hong Kong important to both
Responding to media queries at a media doorstop, Ong said the ATB is "probably the first in this region, and maybe the world".
There is also no restriction on segments on travel, he said.
However, administrative measures will still be in place through measures such as daily temperature taking and the TraceTogether app.
He said both Singapore and Hong Kong have "low incidence of Covid-19 cases and have put in place robust mechanisms to manage and control Covid-19", adding that this has given Singapore "the confidence to mutually and progressively open our borders to each other".
Ong said the ATB is "a safe, careful but significant step forward to revive air travel, and provide a model for future collaboration with other parts of the world".
He added that he is "pleased" that both sides have agreed on the key features to underpin the expeditious conclusion of the ATB between two major international aviation hubs in the world, saying that this development is a milestone in their efforts to resume normalcy while fighting against the long-drawn battle of Covid-19.
The launch date of the Singapore-Hong Kong ATB and other implementation details will be announced in due course.
Singapore's number of new Covid-19 cases has been in single digits since Oct. 12, with five new cases reported on Oct. 14.
Similarly, daily cases in Hong Kong have mostly been in the single digits.
Singapore negotiating travel bubbles with safe regions
Singapore has earlier lowered the quarantine threshold for travellers coming from Hong Kong to seven days from 14.
Previously, Ong also said on Oct. 6 that Singapore is looking to form travel bubbles with safe countries and regions that have low Covid-19 infections and extensive public health surveillance systems.
He expressed Singapore's willingness to commence discussions with Hong Kong and other partners, noting that the Chinese Special Administrative Region intends to set up travel bubbles with Singapore and other countries.
Top image adapted via Unsplash