Hong Kong will assess Singapore's Covid-19 strategy before reviving travel bubble

Hong Kong said it would need to see if Singapore's new strategy would have any impact on previous arrangements for an air travel bubble.
Hong Kong said it would need to see if Singapore's new strategy would have any impact on previous arrangements for an air travel bubble.PHOTOS: EPA-EFE, ST FILE

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will assess Singapore's new Covid-19 strategy as the two sides try to revive a quarantine-free travel corridor that was initially planned to open last November but never got off the ground.

"We need to understand more about that new strategy and whether it will have any impact on the arrangements that we have devised," Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing on Tuesday (July 6) when asked about the so-called travel bubble.

"The situation is very stable on both sides, so this is something that we will be working very closely on."

Singapore is set to loosen restrictions on activities such as dining out next week as its vaccination rate improves, and more opportunity for travel could open up further down the line.

The country plans to have two-thirds of its population of almost six million fully vaccinated by National Day on Aug 9. As the campaign gathers pace, the Government's stance has shifted towards learning to live with the virus rather than pursuing a "Covid-19-zero" approach of eliminating it altogether.

Hong Kong's vaccination rate has been slower, with only about 22 per cent of the population fully inoculated, according to Bloomberg's Vaccine Tracker.

In the most recent travel bubble plan, Hong Kong said it would be open only to its residents who were fully vaccinated, whereas Singapore did not have such a requirement.

"Now that Singapore also has a very high vaccination rate, another factor that we need to consider on top of what we have agreed previously is whether both sides should require vaccination as a condition for participating in the air travel bubble," Mrs Lam said on Tuesday.

The planned travel bubble was shelved in November after a coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong. The two sides later agreed to open it on May 26, only for that plan to collapse as well, this time due to a jump in cases in Singapore.

"On facilitating travel on a bilateral basis that is between Hong Kong and other places, I would say that Singapore is still our priority candidate for consideration," Mrs Lam said.