Update: Originally slated to launch on November 22, the much-hyped Singapore and Hong Kong travel bubble has been postponed. This was due to a spike in Hong Kong’s COVID-19 cases, which was reported at 43 on Saturday, the highest in over three months. As such, the air travel bubble will be deferred for two weeks to monitor the situation. Meanwhile, the airlines will be contacting travellers individually.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a whole bunch of new terms to our vocabulary and “travel bubble” looks set to be the latest. Referring to the recent in-principal agreement by Hong Kong and Singapore to allow leisure travel between the two countries without quarantines and stay-home notices, this move could mark the world’s first bilateral “travel bubble”.
If you’re eyeing a winter vacation in one of the destinations, here’s what you need to know.
Travelers need to test negative for COVID-19
The main criteria for travel is to undergo mutually recognised COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and emerge with a negative result, prior to one’s flight. Details on test procedures and timelines have yet to be finalised but will be announced soon.
There’ll be little to no reinforcements
Unlike the reciprocal green lanes meant for official and essential business travel, the “travel bubble” will allow leisure travelers to fly between both cities without a special visa or entry pass. In addition, quarantines will no longer be enforced and travelers do not have to stick to a predetermined itinerary. That said, measures will be in place to amend or suspend the “bubble” if a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases should arise.
Major airlines will be involved
The national carriers of both destinations, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, along with budget airline Scoot, will be offering a limited number of dedicated flights between the cities. Minister Ong Ye Kung said that the “travel bubble” can be “scaled by adjusting the number of dedicated flights upwards or downwards, or even suspended, in line with the latest developments and COVID-19 situation in the two cities”.
Safety measures will be in place
Travelers aboard these dedicated “bubble” flights will not be mixing with passengers in transit (even if they’re headed to the same destination), so as to contain any imported spread of the virus. Meanwhile, safety measures and social distancing guidelines can be expected, including the wearing of masks for both cabin crew and passengers, as well as frequent sanitising of high touch points.
The economic impact matters
In a bid to boost both Hong Kong and Singapore’s standing as aviation hubs, the “travel bubble” looks set to double and possibly triple traffic by welcoming 150,000 to 210,000 passengers per month. This could result in significant economic impact, compared to the current 100,000 passengers per month for each of the airports currently.
More information here.