Leisure trips to Hong Kong could be weeks away

The launch date of the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble will be announced later.
The launch date of the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble will be announced later.PHOTOS: AFP, LIM YAOHUI

Singapore's two-way air travel bubble with Hong Kong will pave the way for leisure and other forms of travel between both places.

While details are still being worked out, people could be travelling between both places in several weeks. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:

Q Who can apply?

A Anyone who has stayed 14 days in the territory of either party, regardless of age and nationality, will be eligible to travel, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.

The only exceptions so far, at the request of Hong Kong, said Mr Ong, are the foreign workers staying in dormitories in Singapore.

He said that ''in the interest of getting this started, we will probably exclude that group first'', but as the situation continues to stabilise, they may be included in time.

There will be a quota for the number of flights plying both sides, but neither side has revealed numbers.

Details such as how close to the flights the tests would have to be carried out, and which airlines are involved, have also not been finalised.

The launch date of the Singapore- Hong Kong air travel bubble and other implementation details will be announced later.

Q When will flights be launched and how much will they cost?

A Mr Ong said the price of flights will be ''a commercial decision''. Travellers using the air travel bubble will also have to take mutually recognised Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests, and test negative for the coronavirus.

This is similar to the requirements for the arrangements Singapore has with other countries. The Straits Times previously reported that such tests cost $186.

Q Why Hong Kong?

A Hong Kong is the 10th place that Singapore has made special travel arrangements with.

Mr Ong said a key factor in making such travel arrangement decisions is ensuring that there are low incidence rates in both territories.

He noted that both parties will have to ''agree to a certain incidence rate that health officials on both sides are comfortable with''.

A second wave of Covid-19 cases is a possibility, and if it happens, ''the agreement must have an ability to be scaled back at a very short notice''.

Q How are air travel bubbles different from the other schemes in place?

A Air travel bubbles are for general travellers and have no requirements for a controlled itinerary.

If you have a question, e-mail us at askst@sph.com.sg

Under this agreement, there will also be no restrictions on segments of the population or purpose of travel on both sides.

Other schemes in place, such as bilateral green lane arrangements, are for essential business and official travel.

Unilateral border openings, which are one-sided, ''safely lift our border restrictions for these countries and regions, and welcome their travellers'', Mr Ong said previously. Countries in this group are New Zealand, Brunei, Australia (excluding Victoria) and Vietnam.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2020, with the headline 'Leisure trips to Hong Kong could be weeks away'. Print Edition | Subscribe