Brave of Ong Ye Kung to pursue S'pore-Hong Kong air travel bubble: economist Donald Low

The air travel bubble has faced some criticism after a surge in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong.

Jane Zhang | November 21, 2020, 04:04 PM

On Saturday (Nov. 21) morning, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) announced that the air travel bubble (ATB) between Singapore and Hong Kong — which was announced by Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung on Nov. 11 — will proceed on Sunday (Nov. 22) as planned, with an additional precaution.

The ATB has come under some criticism as the number of cases in Hong Kong has surged in the past week.

However, Singaporean economist Donald Low, who resides in Hong Kong, took to Facebook to commend Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung for being "quite brave" for even pursuing the travel bubble in the first place.

Errors of omission usually not criticised

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Low said that it is "quite brave" of Ong to pursue a travel bubble.

This is because errors of omission — not doing something which, in hindsight, should have been done — are not usually criticised or even noticed, explained Low.

On the other hand, errors of commission — doing something which, in hindsight, should not have been done — are criticised far more severely, he wrote.

"This, in turn, leads to the status quo being in place for too long, excessive conservatism, people being rewarded for not taking any risks, etc — which of course is what people routinely criticise government for."

So, Low argued, if Ong had chosen not to negotiate for a travel bubble, even if it was found that the rise in cases in the coming months was manageable, he would likely not be blamed for not taking advantage of the opportunity.

On the other hand, by choosing to push for the travel bubble, Ong has exposed himself to "accusations of recklessness if there’s a subsequent spike in cases", like what is happening currently in Hong Kong.

According to Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the ATB will be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked Covid-19 cases is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong.

Currently, the average in Hong Kong is 2.14. The ATB will be suspended if there are more than 22 unlinked cases in Hong Kong over the next three days.

Suspension will then occur after a two-day notice period.

Here's Low's full post:

Covid-19 cases have risen in Hong Kong

The number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong has risen amidst what officials are calling a "fourth wave".

On Friday (Nov. 20), Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection said that it was investigating 26 new Covid-19 cases, and following up on more than 40 preliminary positive ones.

Five of the cases are imported, 12 have links with local cases, and nine do not currently have a known source of infection.

Of the 12 cases with links to other local cases, nine are related to a cluster at Starlight Dance Club, while at least seven people among the preliminary positive cases had also been to the club.

On Saturday (Nov. 21), the Hong Kong government announced a dancing ban, to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Live performance and dancing in catering premises (including bars or pubs), clubs, or nightclubs will be banned, and party rooms must be closed from Nov. 22 to 26.

Business owners found breaching the rules can face a fine of up to HK$50,000 (S$8,666) and jailed for six months.

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Top photos via Donald Low's and Ong Ye Kung's Facebook pages, by Robert Bye on Unsplash.