Singapore to assess Hong Kong travel bubble amid sudden surge in Covid-19 cases

Singapore’s government said it was assessing possible changes to its travel bubble plans with Hong Kong after the outbreak of Covid-19 infections triggered new restrictions in Singapore.

Singapore to assess Hong Kong travel bubble amid sudden surge in Covid-19 cases (Photo: Jisun Han, Unsplash)

Singapore announced late Tuesday that it will implement a three-week crackdown that includes limiting social gatherings to five people and tightening border restrictions to stop the spread of the new variant first detected in India. The stricter rules come more than a week after a May 26 agreement with Hong Kong opened up the air travel corridor.

Lawrence Wong, co-chairman of the Singapore government’s virus task force, said: “We will closely monitor developments and review and assess whether there are any changes.” Singapore and Hong Kong authorities remain in touch, he said.

Singapore’s infection cluster recorded its first coronavirus-related death in nearly two months over the weekend, underscoring the fragility of travel protocols in the face of a highly transmissible variant. The Hong Kong-Singapore agreement, which has been delayed several times due to the infection outbreak, includes setting a clear threshold for the number of locally linked cases before the corridor is suspended.

Under the terms of the agreement, if the seven-day moving average of daily unlinked local cases in Singapore or Hong Kong exceeds five, the travel bubble will close for two weeks. Currently, Singapore’s figure stands at 1.43, well below that threshold. The Ministry of Health detected only one case of locally transmitted infection on Wednesday.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, said late on Tuesday that the government was watching the outbreak in Singapore, though he said the number of cases was “generally” within the agreed range.

“More infectious”

The five cases reported in Singapore on Tuesday were linked to a cluster of infections of the Indian variant at a large public hospital. Wednesday’s case was not linked to the cluster.

In many parts of the world, the rate of mutation is outpacing the progress of vaccination, threatening to expand the pandemic.

“They’re more contagious, causing larger clusters of infection than before,” Huang said. “We’ve done our best to isolate cases through contact tracing, but we have to assume that there are still hidden cases in the community.”

Shares of Singapore Airlines Ltd. fell 3% on Wednesday, their biggest drop in more than two weeks. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. fell 1.8% in Hong Kong.

work restrictions

Group gatherings in Singapore must be reduced from a maximum of eight to five people from May 8 to May 30, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday. In the workplace, the percentage of employees able to work from home who are able to return to the office is lower than the previous limit of 75%.

The Ministry of Health said the quarantine period for travelers will be extended to 21 days from the current 14 days from May 8, except for a few low-risk areas such as Australia, Brunei, China, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

If the first flight departs as planned on May 26, tourists to Singapore will visit the island, which has been slightly more restricted than it has been in the past few months. Grills, gyms and campgrounds are closed again and people cannot gather more than five people, although restaurants are still open and in most cases very busy. Customers have to finish their drinks by around 10pm, though.

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The report was released by a news agency without editing the text. Only the title has changed.

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