Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble postponed again after Singapore reports migrant worker outbreak

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Updated April 22, 2021 at 09:04 AM EST

Top line

Underscoring the challenges posed by such an arrangement, Hong Kong and Singapore delayed plans to announce a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two cities after a cluster of Covid-19 cases were reportedly detected among migrant workers in Singapore. The epidemic is still present in several parts of the world.

key facts

An air travel bubble between the two Asian financial centers was expected to be announced on Thursday but was called off by Singapore, which did not set a new date, according to Bloomberg.

Neither side has commented on the arrangement or what led to the cancellation, but a spike in Covid-19 cases among Singapore’s migrant worker community this week has been cited as a possible reason, the report showed.

While neither city has been hit hard by the virus — Hong Kong reported 209 deaths from Covid-19 and Singapore just 30 — any small outbreak would raise alarm because of its dense population.

key background

Travel bubbles that allow quarantine-free travel between neighboring countries have provided families, businesses and airlines with something of a lifeline during the pandemic. But they don’t always go as planned. This is the second time a planned travel bubble between the two financial centers has been delayed. The bubble was supposed to start last November, but the plan had to be scrapped after a spike in cases in Hong Kong. The start date was then pushed back to May, officials said at the time, but the latest delay left that time frame uncertain. Strict epidemic protocols have prevented people from traveling in the two cities, which has severely affected the business of two flagship airlines – Singapore Airlines and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways. Earlier this week, Singapore said it would halve the required quarantine period for travelers from Hong Kong to just seven days, and that they could do so at their private residences rather than government facilities. Hong Kong has also eased restrictions on visitors from Singapore – allowing unvaccinated tourists to quarantine in designated hotels for 14 days, followed by seven days of “self-monitoring”. Previously, travelers had to quarantine in hotels for 21 days.


Australia and New Zealand opened a travel ring on Monday, allowing their residents to travel between the two countries without quarantining. In announcing the move, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pointed to such bubbles as a result of both countries’ strenuous efforts to effectively eliminate local transmission of the coronavirus. However, on Tuesday, a staff member at Auckland International Airport tested positive for Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated, threatening to delay the arrangements. Back in May last year, a group of European countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — created travel bubble arrangements. But it fell apart in September after Latvia required a 14-day quarantine for travelers from Estonia following an outbreak in the country. According to travel blog Wego, there are many travel corridors between countries in Africa, Europe and Asia.

further reading

Singapore and Hong Kong cancel travel bubble announcements (Bloomberg)

Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble announcement delayed as Singapore quarantines hundreds of migrant workers (South China Morning Post)

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