Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble may have 1 flight a day

The number of flights under the agreement may change depending on the coronavirus situation

SINGAPORE • The travel bubble for Hong Kong and Singapore could start with one daily flight between the two financial hubs, according to Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau.

The number of dedicated flights under the agreement may change depending on the coronavirus situation in the cities, Yau said at a briefing yesterday, without elaborating. The two governments are still working on the details of the plan, including the start date.

Singapore and Hong Kong (HK) said last Thursday they planned to open their borders to one another for the first time in almost seven months, with quarantine replaced by coronavirus testing. Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said at the time he hoped the bubble would start in weeks. Travellers must have been in Hong Kong or Singapore for 14 days before departure and will need to take mutually recognised Covid-19 tests.

Governments around the world have been trying to create travel bubbles to help revive their economies and aviation industries. Opening links is particularly important for places such as Hong Kong and Singapore because they rely so much on international connectivity and business.

Singapore will trial coronavirus tests for participants in larger-scale gatherings in a further step toward normalised social activity as new daily coronavirus cases dwindle near zero.

The trial will use antigen rapid tests, or ARTs, which can return “fairly accurate” results within half an hour, the government said in a release yesterday. Pre-event testing trials starting mid-October at business gatherings, wedding receptions, live performances and sports events will enable the Ministry of Health to identify a model that can be implemented more widely and allow more large-scale events to resume eventually, it said.

Only participants who tested negative will be allowed to participate in the event. The Singapore International Energy Week next week will be among the first business events in the pilot. The pilot is part of the government’s plans to prepare the country for Phase Three of its reopening, possibly by year-end.

“When can all of these measures take place?” Minister of Education Lawrence Wong said during a briefing by the task-force handling the pandemic crisis. “That is the big question and the answer is that it really depends on all of us.”

Phase Three would allow the following easing of measures:

Group size for gatherings outside the home could be increased from the present five people to eight people. The number of visitors allowed to homes would similarly increase to eight.

Capacity limits at public venues could be increased, and events with multiple zones of 50 persons could be allowed.

Higher-risk settings like bars, pubs, karaoke lounges and night- clubs aren’t expected to reopen as their activities pose a higher risk of transmission.

The city-state will gradually allow more travel to resume and is exploring ways to deploy more frequent testing to let more travellers enter Singapore without needing to quarantine.

All residents and long-term pass holders travelling overseas can now access government subsidies and insurance coverage for their Covid-19-related medical bills.

From Nov 1, live performances will be allowed to resume at designated venues, with up to two zones of 50 audience members.

“You can liken the current situation to one where a fire has just been put out, but there are still embers of the fire lying around,” Wong said. “Each time we make further relaxation of any measures, we are simply adding wood to the fire. You don’t know when but at some point in time, the more wood you add, and the whole thing will combust yet again into a giant fire.”

Singapore is looking to procure various vaccines and is assessing which is most suitable for the country, officials said at the briefing. It may start to see vaccines come into Singapore by the end of the year, but it is more realistic that Phase Three trials conclude some- time next year. — Bloomberg