Published: 22 Nov 2020, 12:06 pm
On Saturday, Singapore and Hong Kong postponed the opening of an air travel bubble intended to improve tourism in both regions, citing an increase in infections in the Chinese territory as a "sovereign reminder" of public health threats.
The travel bubble, originally slated to start on Sunday, will be postponed by at least two weeks, according to Hong Kong Minister of Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, at a news conference, reports AP.
The agreement is intended to allow travelers between the two cities to enter without quarantine as long as they complete coronavirus checks before and after arrival at their destinations and to fly on designated flights.
Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, including 13 untraceable local infections.
“For any scheme to be successful, they must fulfill the condition of securing public health, and also make sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” Yau said. “In light of the situation in Hong Kong, I think it’s the responsible way to put this back for a while, and then sort of relaunch it at a suitable juncture.”
Under the original arrangement, the travel bubble will be suspended if the number of untraceable local infections in either Singapore or Hong Kong exceeded five on a seven-day moving average. The latest average in Hong Kong is almost four, causing Yau and Singapore's transport minister, Ong Ye Kung, to delay the inaugural flight.
On Friday, Hong Kong's top health official said the region had "probably entered" a fresh surge of incidents. Current clusters have spanned cab drivers, dance studios and hotels.
Hong Kong reported a total of 5,561 cases, including 108 deaths. Singapore recorded 58,148 cases, but just 28 fatalities.
Prior to the postponement, Singapore said Saturday morning that travelers arriving from Hong Kong via the bubble would be required to take a coronavirus test on arrival. Originally, only people landing in Hong Kong were to be required to be tested.
Ong said in a Facebook post that the postponement is a “sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us.”
“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint,” he wrote.