No fixed date set for Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble, launch only when it's safe: Lawrence Wong

Education Minister Lawrence Wong said new initiatives like travel bubbles can only be launched when it is safe to do so. PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, AFP

SINGAPORE - Singapore and Hong Kong have been discussing the possibility of resuming air travel between the two cities, but no fixed date has been set yet, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong on Thursday (April 22).

Citing this as an example of how the current global Covid-19 situation is fluid, he said new initiatives like travel bubbles can only be launched when it is safe to do so.

He added: "That requires us to monitor the situation. It requires us to ensure that on both sides, for travel, the situation is appropriate and safe before such an initiative can take off.

"Even after the initiative is launched, and travel were to start, things can change after that. You could have cases going up on either side, and it may well happen that along the way, something like this may have to be suspended temporarily, a pause in order for the infection to be controlled on either side."

Mr Wong was speaking during a virtual press conference held by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, which he co-chairs with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

His remarks come after media reports said Singapore and Hong Kong had called off plans to announce the air travel bubble on Thursday. The cancellation was initiated by the Singapore side, according to a Bloomberg report.

In a separate media statement, Singapore's Ministry of Transport said on Thursday the two cities have been in close consultations on the travel arrangement, initially slated to take off in November last year.

It was postponed to this year, after a surge in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong last November.

"We have not fixed a date to announce the resumption of the bubble, but will do so once we are ready, hopefully very soon," the ministry's spokesman added.

Mr Wong said such delays and changes in plans for safety reasons are the reality in the new normal.

"From time to time, temporary suspensions or temporary stops may well be needed in order for any outbreak or new cases to be properly contained. That's our overall approach and that's certainly the approach that Hong Kong takes as well," he said.

However, he also said there are no changes being made to the easing of attendance caps on events like weddings, business conferences, live performances and sports events from Saturday.

"For now, we have no plans to change the current prevailing rules or to change what has already been announced, but I'm sure you appreciate that this is a dynamic situation that is changing by the day."

Travellers to India risk difficulty in returning to Singapore

People in Singapore who wish to travel to India despite an advisory to defer all travel there can still do so, but they should be prepared to face difficulties in coming back in the short term, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said Thursday.

He said during a virtual news conference: "For someone returning there for the long term, or going there for long-term purposes, we won't restrict that movement, but whoever who goes there and hopes to come back to Singapore soon, I think that would potentially be difficult."

Singapore is restricting travel from the South Asian nation and there are likely to be very few flights from India coming here, Mr Wong noted. Coming back from India would therefore be difficult, at least in the near future.

He said: "We don't know when we will lift this new restriction. It is a temporary freeze on arrivals from India so as to give us time to monitor the situation in India, to understand better the new variants and the risk they pose to us, and at the same time for us to clear up the situation that we have seen recently in the dormitories."

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