Coronavirus Asia

HK lawmakers urge scrapping of travel bubble plan with Singapore

HONG KONG • Lawmakers in Hong Kong yesterday urged the government to abandon 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 on to 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.

Ms Alice Mak of the Federation of Trade Unions said a travel bubble would be beneficial to the tourism industry, but that "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."

In response, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said Hong Kong officials 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 yesterday.

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2021, with the headline 'HK lawmakers urge scrapping of travel bubble plan with Singapore'. Subscribe