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S’pore, Hong Kong reach air travel bubble agreement to allow all forms of travel between both cities: MOT

SINGAPORE — Travellers here will soon be able to make leisure trips to Hong Kong without needing to complete a quarantine or stay-home notice period.

View of the Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong.

View of the Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong.

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  • Travellers can soon fly between Singapore and Hong Kong, for any type of travel
  • Travellers will have to produce negative results on Covid-19 PCR tests
  • They will not have to serve a quarantine or stay-home notice upon arrival
  • The in-principle agreement with Hong Kong is a “safe, careful but significant” step to revive air travel, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung
  • No date has been set yet for travel to resume, but Mr Ong hopes it will happen within weeks

 

SINGAPORE — Travellers here will soon be able to make leisure trips to Hong Kong without needing to complete a quarantine or stay-home notice period. 

The arrangement is part of a new in-principle agreement between the two cities which will help to revive cross-border air travel in a “safe and progressive way”, said the Ministry of Transport (MOT) in a press release on Thursday (Oct 15).

It added that the two governments are working out the details, including the start date, and these will be announced in the coming weeks.

As part of the arrangement, there will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel. 

Travellers from both sides, however, must produce negative results on mutually recognised Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

While Singapore and Hong Kong have both agreed to implement pre-departure tests, each party can propose more tests if they would like to do so, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters on Thursday.

Travellers will be exempt from having to serve a quarantine or stay-home notice upon arrival in both destinations but will have to travel on dedicated flights. 

No transit travellers are allowed on these flights.

As part of the new arrangements, the number of dedicated flights can be adjusted or even suspended, depending on the Covid-19 situation in either city.

This is the first such travel arrangement that Singapore has established since countries collectively shut their borders due to Covid-19. It is also “probably” the first reciprocal air travel bubble in the region, and maybe worldwide, noted Mr Ong.

“Both our cities have low incidence of Covid-19 cases and have put in place robust mechanisms to manage and control Covid-10,” said Mr Ong in a separate statement on Thursday.

“This has given us the confidence to mutually and progressively open our borders to each other.”

The number of new cases in the community in Singapore has gone down to an average of fewer than one a day in the past week, while daily case figures in Hong Kong have mostly been in the single digits for the month of October.

In the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as a spike in Covid-19 cases in either city, Mr Ong said that both sides will have to suspend air travel.

Nevertheless, the air bubble is an initiative which both sides have to approach progressively, given the importance of the aviation industry to their economies.

“Both of us are important aviation hubs. We both know that the aviation hub concerns the entire economy, not just the aviation economy, so hundreds and thousands of jobs are at stake.”

QUOTA TO BE SET 

Mr Ong said that both sides will set a quota on the number of travellers that is “comfortable” for both sides. This quota may be increased over time if the situation is assessed to be safe.

Each city will also be free to implement their own administrative arrangements, such as requiring incoming travellers to Singapore to activate the digital contact tracing system TraceTogether, or measure their temperature daily, he said.

The air travel bubble was a “safe, careful but significant” step forward to revive air travel and will provide a model for future collaboration with other parts of the world, added Mr Ong. 

Mr Ong had said on Oct 6 that the authorities were considering allowing ordinary travellers from Hong Kong and other destinations to enter Singapore without needing to follow a controlled itinerary or completing a 14-day quarantine. 

The Government had also lowered the quarantine period for inbound Hong Kong travellers to seven days from 14 and added the city to a list of low-risk countries.

Singapore has established reciprocal essential and business travel arrangements with several countries, including Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, and Malaysia. 

The authorities have also allowed general travel to New Zealand and Brunei since Sept 1.

Mr Ong reiterated that when Singapore opened up air travel to countries such as New Zealand and Vietnam unilaterally, the Government decided to do so after monitoring data over several weeks and months to ensure that the other party had successfully controlled the spread of the virus.

Healthcare professionals are also confident of the surveillance and Covid-19 testing systems of the partner country, said Mr Ong.

NOT RUSHING FOR SCHOOL HOLIDAYS 

In this regard, Singapore wanted to go a step further with Hong Kong to establish a bubble as travellers from both cities have the same risk profiles given the low Covid-19 incidence rates.

“The risk of a Hong Konger bringing a virus into Changi Airport is not very different if you come from Jurong, or Bedok North or Tampines,” said Mr Ong.

When asked if the bubble will be ready in time for the year-end school holidays, Mr Ong said that the Government is not “chasing” to implement the agreement by then and hoped that parents will consider other recreational options in Singapore for their children.

“My consideration is really a long-term one, that as an aviation hub that is critical to Singapore, we must take the right steps to open it safely but surely. And so I’ve been guided by that, as opposed to rushing for the school holidays.”

Related topics

Hong Kong Singapore travel bubble travel tourism

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