Hong Kong government urged to scrap travel bubble plan with Singapore

The calls came as Singapore's Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the two sides are still trying to revive the agreement. PHOTOS: AFP, GIN TAY

HONG KONG - Hong Kong lawmakers on Friday (July 9) urged the government to give up plans for a travel bubble with Singapore, given the Republic's strategy shift towards learning to live with Covid-19, local media reported.

At a Legislative Council meeting, lawmakers said Hong Kong must hold onto its goal of maintaining zero local Covid-19 infections, so that travel between the territory and the mainland can resume as soon as possible, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien said Hong Kong should not offer quarantine-free travel to people from places that do not have the same "Covid zero" target.

"The mainland will not tolerate any loopholes at our airport. If Singapore really changes its anti-pandemic target, the government can stop talking to the country about setting up a travel bubble," he said.

As Singapore's vaccination campaign gathers pace, the government's stance has shifted towards learning to live with the virus rather than pursuing a so-called Covid-Zero approach of eliminating it altogether.

Alice Mak of the Federation of Trade Unions said a travel bubble would be beneficial to the tourism industry, but she said "the cost would be too high" if it jeopardises Hong Kong's pandemic situation.

"For places that don't aim to achieve zero infections but hope to live with the virus, we should not have a travel bubble with them," she said.

In response, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said the Hong Kong authorities will continue to communicate with their counterparts in Singapore.

The calls came as Singapore's Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the two sides are still trying to revive an agreement to allow quarantine-free travel between the two cities.

The arrangement could be used as a model to open to more parts of the world, Mr Ong said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday.

With very low Covid-19 case counts, or none at all on many days, the cities are well positioned to open their borders again, Mr Ong said.

"That gives us common ground to talk again about restarting the air travel bubble," he said, according to Bloomberg.

"I try to not call it bubble as it connotes something very fragile and can easily burst - I try to describe it as air travel corridor now, but the idea is the same."

The plan to launch a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was first delayed in November last year when the territory battled a wave of new infections, and was postponed again in May when cases surged in Singapore.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.