Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble: Different Covid-19 strategies dash hopes for quarantine-free travel deal, officials say

Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble: Different Covid-19 strategies dash hopes for quarantine-free travel deal, officials say

But Singapore said in May it wanted to shift to a policy of “coexisting with the virus”, in stark contrast to Hong Kong’s insistence on a “zero infection” goal.

“With Singapore now moving towards a new strategy of building a ‘Covid-resistant’ nation, the basic premise underpinning (the bubble) has changed,” a Hong Kong government spokesman said.

“Take the 7-day moving average of unlinked local cases as an example, which is the criteria for suspending and resuming ATB (air travel bubble) under the agreed framework. Due to the implementation of the new strategy, this number in Singapore may not always be maintained at the desired level level.”

The spokesman said on Thursday that the two governments had agreed not to hold further discussions on the travel bubble.

Announcing the decision on Thursday, Singapore’s Transport Minister Iswaran also pointed to differences in the two cities’ response to the outbreak, saying his government would not be able to start or sustain a travel bubble in the previously agreed form.

For now at least, Hong Kong will remain barred from entry for people arriving from Singapore who do not want to be quarantined.Photo: Yang Xin

Under the previously agreed mechanism, once the bubble has started, it will be suspended if the 7-day moving average of unlinked Covid-19 cases in any city exceeds 5 cases.

Hong Kong has been striving to achieve zero infections, and it is hoped that mainland Chinese authorities will resume cross-border travel with Hong Kong. Most of the cases recorded in Hong Kong in the past two months were imported cases.

Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble: Review delays deals in late August

Singapore is planning steps to adapt to life with coronavirus, with ministers tying the easing of Covid-19 rules to vaccination milestones.

For example, authorities want to allow quarantine-free travel with some countries when vaccination rates are expected to reach 80% in September.



Travel bubble: Hong Kong and Singapore introduce quarantine-free entry after long delay

Travel bubble: Hong Kong and Singapore introduce quarantine-free entry after long delay

The planned Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble has been postponed twice – in November last year and in May this year – after the new outbreak.

In March this year, Minister of Commerce Qiu Tenghua said that the government had sent letters to Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand to explore similar quarantine-free arrangements, and the progress depended on the development of the epidemic.

Many western countries are currently treating the health crisis like a seasonal flu, while Hong Kong and the mainland continue to adopt stricter measures, said Yiu Sirong, a member of the tourism legislature.

“So if most overseas countries adopt relatively loose standards, it will become increasingly difficult to open other travel corridors involving Hong Kong and these countries,” Yao said.

He added that Hong Kong is more interested in reopening its borders with the mainland than in resuming travel with overseas countries, with nearly 80 percent of the city’s inbound travelers traditionally coming from that part of the country.

Yao expects future plans to resume quarantine-free travel plans with other countries abandoning the “zero infection” goal will depend on the mainland’s attitude towards these destinations.

Chui Tingbang, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, said the bursting of the bubble was not disappointing because the tourism industry did not have any expectations in the first place.

Cui Shian emphasized that only reopening the border with the mainland can save the tourism industry.

“We have to wait for the global outbreak to be contained or have a chance to end before we see the possibility of resuming normal travel with other countries,” he said.

He predicts that the full reopening of Hong Kong’s borders to the world may not happen until 2023 at the earliest.

“The premise of starting a travel bubble is that the epidemic is contained anywhere, and this depends very much on global developments,” he said.

This article appeared in the print edition of the South China Morning Post: Bubble bursts with different strategies

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