Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble: Will I be able to travel and when?

The launch date of the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble will be announced later. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - 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 some answers to commonly asked questions:

Q: Who can apply?

Anyone who has lived 14 days in the territory of either party, regardless of age and nationality, will be eligible to travel, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (Oct 15).

The only exception so far, at the request of Hong Kong, said Mr Ong, are the foreign workers living in dorms 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 on 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 can get involved, have also not been finalised.

Mr Ong said that people will get to travel on a first-come, first-served basis, just like with most flights to other places.

There is more demand than supply so it all depends on "fastest fingers first", he added.

The launch date of the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble, and other implementation details like how to apply for it, will be announced later.

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

Mr Ong said the price of flights will be "a commercial decision".

"This is a very busy sector and I'm sure the airlines will price them accordingly."

Travellers under 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 cities.

The Straits Times previously reported that such tests cost $186.

Q: Why Hong Kong?

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.

"We monitor (cities') data over several weeks, months, and notice that they have very successfully controlled the virus," he said.

Hong Kong also has an impressive record, Mr Ong noted.

"I think between Singapore and Hong Kong, our risk profile is the same... The risk of a Hong Konger bringing the virus into Changi is not very different from someone coming from Jurong."

However, 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 very short notice".

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

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

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 in Parliament previously.

Countries in this group are New Zealand, Brunei, Australia - excluding Victoria state - and Vietnam.

Visitors have to apply for the Air Travel Pass that allows all forms of short-term travel, including leisure travel.

"Their governments will decide if and when to reciprocate for travellers from Singapore. Once they do that, aviation links between us would have been restored... Although the other countries are not ready to lift their restrictions now, Singapore can be top of mind when they are ready eventually," said Mr Ong.

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