Singapore, Hong Kong call off travel bubble for 2nd time as COVID-19 cases surge in Singapore

Hong Kong retains one of the strictest quarantine regimes in Asia at 21 days. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill) and Hong Kong announced on Monday (17 May) that the two Asian financial centres would once again postpone a travel bubble as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Singapore. The latest bubble, which would have allowed quarantine-free travel between the two cities, was supposed to start on 26 May. The latest delay follows on from last year when the two cities had set up a travel bubble that was supposed to happen in November 2020. That one was also spiked after cases of COVID-19 rose in Hong Kong.

Border closures and quarantines mean very passengers are coming to Changi Airport in Singapore. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Singapore in recent days has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases that have forced the Lion City to reimpose tighter restrictions on social gatherings. The city-state is also forcing students to go back to online learning and has forced all restaurants and hawker centres to offer only take-away or delivery options.

Singapore has closed its airport facilities to the public because of a cluster of COVID-19 infections there. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said Transport Minister S. Iswaran had a meeting on Monday morning with Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau on the issue. “Both sides remain strongly committed to launching the ATB safely,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to the Air Travel Bubble. “However, in light of the recent increase in unlinked community cases, Singapore is unable to meet the criteria to start the Singapore-Hong Kong ATB.” Both sides have therefore agreed to defer the launch of the ATB to protect the health of travellers and the public in these two places.

Singapore officials said they and their Hong Kong counterparts would monitor the situation and review any proposed new launch date following the end of Singapore’s latest restrictions, which the city has termed “Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)”. Both cities had said that the air travel bubble will be suspended when the seven-day moving average of the unlinked community cases in either Singapore or Hong Kong increases is more than five. As of Sunday, the seven-day moving average of unlinked community cases in Singapore has increased to almost five. There were also dozens of other linked cases in the community.

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