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Singapore and Hong Kong Scrap Travel Bubble

Much-delayed corridor plans ran afoul of case spikes and “differences in the anti-epidemic strategies”

August 19, 2021

The governments of Singapore and Hong Kong have ended efforts to establish an air travel bubble between the two destinations. In statements confirming the decision to halt further discussions, both countries indicated that policy changes in the fight against COVID-19 had made a travel bubble agreement unworkable.

“In Singapore, a substantial proportion of our population is fully vaccinated,” read a statement from Singapore’s ministry of transport. “Hong Kong too is progressively vaccinating its population. Both sides are focused on keeping our populations safe and preventing the risk of imported cases.”

However, the ministry said Singapore has shifted its strategy toward becoming “a COVID-resilient nation,” the statement continued. “Against this backdrop, both parties agreed that it would not be possible to launch or sustain the ATB in its present form.”

Officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region cited “differences in the anti-epidemic strategies currently adopted by the two places.” Hong Kong said that Singapore’s new strategy meant that “the basic premises that underpin the ATB have changed.”

The two countries had originally planned to start the corridor in November 2020. However a spike in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong pushed the launch date to May, only to be postponed again because Singapore saw a spike in the number of cases. In June Singapore’s ministry of transport said it would revisit the possibility of a travel bubble with Hong Kong in July, but the latest announcement appears to scuttle the plan for good.

Notwithstanding, Singapore has announced that beginning August 21, it will unilaterally allow travelers from Hong Kong to enter without being required to quarantine. However restrictions remain in place for travelers arriving into Hong Kong from Singapore, although “Hong Kong will continue to consider adjusting its border measures to facilitate travelers from Singapore to enter Hong Kong,” according to the Singapore ministry of transport.

At the outset of the pandemic, the industry had looked at air travel bubbles as one way to safely resume international flights, but thus far, the policies have not played out in the real world of SARS-CoV-2. The failure of Singapore-Hong Kong corridor follows the suspension of the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble in July.