Hong Kong-Singapore ‘travel bubble’ postponed

(CNN) – The much-anticipated Hong Kong and Singapore “air travel bubble” was postponed to Saturday – less than 24 hours before launch.
The bubble would have allowed unrestricted, air travel between the two centers in Asia. An increase in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong means the system will be suspended for two weeks, Hong Kong’s Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau told a news conference on Saturday.

Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily spike in three months. Of those, 36 were relocated locally – including 13 that are not cut.

The quarantine-free corridor was meant to accelerate travel and business travel between the two centers in Asia, largely involving the outbreak of their coronavirus. Since the outbreak, there have been 5,611 Kovid-1 cases in Hong Kong, including 108 deaths, while in Singapore there have been 58,000 infections and 28 deaths.

Quarantine-free travel would be a big deal for both destinations, where strict arrival rules have been in place for months. When the coronavirus epidemic hit, both governments closed borders and denied entry to most non-residents and short-term visitors. In Hong Kong, returning residents are required to go through a 14-day quarantine and wear an electronic bracelet to find their location.

How the bubble was supposed to work

The bubble was to start on Sunday with one flight to each city, with a quota of 200 passengers per flight – and later increased to two flights a day.

Passengers will have to meet certain parameters before starting, such as having not traveled in the last 14 days and undergoing mandatory Covid-19 testing. But upon arrival they will not be subject to any quarantine or stay-home notice requirements, or controlled guidelines.

However, the configuration always includes a warning that the Covid-19 situation should worsen in both cities, the plan will be postponed.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced early on Saturday morning that the travel bubble with Hong Kong would be launched as scheduled. But later that day, city-state transport minister Ong Ye Kung announced that the plan had changed.

“Given the evolving situation in Hong Kong, Secretary Edward Yau and I discussed further this afternoon, and decided that it would be better to postpone the launch of the ATB for two weeks. We will review and update again in two weeks on the new launch date,” Ong said.

The last few days have seen a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong after a steadily low number of cases.

The city’s Center for Health Protection urged people to avoid all unnecessary travel outside of Hong Kong, and residents to avoid going out, eating and socializing.

“The growth rate is very worrying,” said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable diseases branch of Hong Kong’s health protection center.

He warned that this new increase in cases would be “very difficult to control”.

CNN’s Jesse Young contributed to this article.