Hong Kong, Singapore to review air travel bubble in late August

Both parties will remain in close contact and monitor the public health situation in both places before taking stock in late August. PHOTOS: ST FILE, AFP

SINGAPORE - The long-anticipated quarantine free travel corridor plan between Hong Kong and Singapore will not be taking off any time soon.

Singapore's Transport Minister S. Iswaran and Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau have jointly agreed to resume discussions on the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) only when the Covid-19 situation allows.

"Both parties will remain in close contact and monitor the public health situation in both places before taking stock in late August on the ATB," Singapore's Transport Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday (July 20).

This comes as Singapore tightened its Covid-19 measures from Thursday (July 22) to Aug 18, as the Republic goes back to phase two (heightened alert) to stem a recent spike in community cases.

Singapore saw a record high of 182 new locally transmitted coronavirus cases as at Tuesday afternoon, including 142 cases connected to the Jurong Fishery Port cluster.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said that, given the recent surge of cases in Singapore, the condition for launching the ATB "could not be met for the time being".

The spokesman also said both Hong Kong and Singapore have agreed that a review of the way forward could be conducted late next month, taking into account the effectiveness of the enhanced infection control measures implemented by Singapore and the global situation at that time.

The Hong Kong-Singapore travel scheme was slated to launch last November but was postponed to May after Hong Kong had a surge in cases.

It was derailed again when the number of coronavirus cases began to rise in Singapore, with the situation stabilising early last month, before the recent spike in cases.

Last week, Hong Kong legislators had urged the government to scrap the plan as Singapore shifts from a zero-infection strategy, which Hong Kong places great importance on.

They reasoned that having zero coronavirus cases is a requirement for the territory to reopen borders with the mainland.

Under Singapore's transition from dealing with Covid-19 as a pandemic to managing it as endemic, the Government is aiming to fully vaccinate two-thirds of the 5.7 million population by early next month.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV recently, Singapore's Health Minister Ong Ye Kung expressed optimism that the travel plan with Hong Kong would materialise.

"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."

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