S'pore-HK travel bubble: HK visitors to take Covid-19 test; flights to go ahead on Sunday

Travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will have to take Covid-19 tests, in lieu of serving quarantine or stay-home notices.
Travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will have to take Covid-19 tests, in lieu of serving quarantine or stay-home notices.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The first few flights under a travel arrangement between Hong Kong and Singapore will proceed as planned on Sunday (Nov 22) but travellers from Hong Kong will have to go for a Covid-19 test upon arriving in Singapore.

The additional requirement, which will take effect on Sunday, comes after a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong in recent days. Visitors from Hong Kong were previously required to take the test only prior to departure for Singapore.

Revealing the change on Saturday (Nov 21), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said visitors will need to take the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at Changi Airport as "a precautionary measure".

"More cases are expected in Hong Kong over the next few days due to the emergence of new clusters," said the CAAS in a statement.

Hong Kong reported 26 cases on Friday (Nov 20), with its Health Secretary, Professor Sophia Chan, describing the situation as "severe".

"The Singapore and Hong Kong health authorities are in close contact and monitoring the situation," the CAAS added.

Speaking to reporters after a tour of Singapore Airlines training centre in Changi on Saturday, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said: "As you know, Hong Kong cases have spiked yesterday. Chances are today's cases may go up even further, and we should expect a few days of high cases, in the tens.

"I think there's a high chance that the (air travel bubble) may be suspended, based on what we have agreed on," he said.

"If within the next three days there are more than 22 unlinked cases, then I think the suspension will kick in. But that will not affect tomorrow's flight. Tomorrow's flight will still start because our mechanism is as such that when (the threshold) is breached, (the bubble) will be suspended with a 48-hour notice so that travellers are not stranded."

The PCR test here will cost $196 per traveller, but this will be waived in the first week from Nov 22 to 28 to allow travellers to adjust to the change, said the CAAS.

Travellers must immediately take private transport to a declared place of accommodation - a hotel or home (for Singapore residents) - for self-isolation while waiting for the test results, which will take about six to eight hours.

The Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble arrangement is the Republic's first since border restrictions were imposed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the arrangement, there will be one flight a day into each city and a quota of 200 travellers per flight from Sunday (Nov 22).

Travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will have to take Covid-19 tests, in lieu of serving quarantine or stay-home notices.

There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel, and no need for a controlled itinerary, but travellers are required to meet eligibility criteria and adhere to the prevailing border control measures and public health requirements of both cities.

Under the terms of the arrangement, travel will be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked Covid-19 cases is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong.

The figure for Hong Kong is currently at 2.14, said the CAAS on Saturday (Nov 21).

The threshold will be exceeded if there are more than 22 unlinked cases in Hong Kong over the next three days. This will trigger a two-day notice period, after which suspension will come into effect, the authority added.

Prevailing border measures - such as a seven-day stay-home notice - will then apply upon entry into Singapore. These prevailing measures apply to all other travellers from Hong Kong to Singapore on non-travel bubble flights, including business visitors. 

Mr Ong said that the spike in cases seen in Hong Kong is "a sobering reminder that the virus is still with us", and it is just as well that obstacles are taking place now at the beginning of the travel bubble.

"We are fighting to get back our normal life and our way of life. But while we do so, be reminded the virus is still with us until vaccines are widely available and administered to majority of people around the world," he said.

A Singapore Airlines spokesman said the airline is closely monitoring the situation and will work with the authorities on the air travel bubble flights.

Have you been affected by the deferment of the travel bubble flights? E-mail us at stnewsdesk@sph.com.sg