SINGAPORE – Singapore has not given up on the formation of a bilateral “air travel bubble” with Hong Kong, allowing travelers to skip quarantine, Southeast Asian country’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told The Washington City Times.
The scheme was set to start in November, but was delayed after Hong Kong reported a resurgence of new Covid-19 cases. No new launch date has been set, but Ong said authorities have been in touch from both sides.
“As you know, the agreement has been signed and made. We are making some adjustments, some proposals to tighten it up,” the minister told The Washington City Times’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.
“But I think the main consideration now is that this is shortly after Chinese New Year and both sides are cautious. We want to see if there is any impact as a result of Chinese New Year on the community handover,” he added.
The festivities for the Lunar New Year took place last month. Celebrations usually involve gatherings and visiting the homes of family and friends – events that have been scaled back in many countries this year due to the pandemic.
Ong said there doesn’t appear to be any sign of increased Covid transfer after the festivities.
In Singapore, the number of new daily cases has remained low, with no community infections on most days, he said. As of Wednesday, the country has reported more than 60,000 confirmed cases and 29 deaths since the outbreak began, data from the Ministry of Health showed.
In Hong Kong, the number of daily new cases has also fallen from a recent peak in January. As of Wednesday, the city has reported more than 11,000 confirmed and probable Covid cases and 203 deaths, official data showed.
Both Singapore and Hong Kong are major Asian business centers that do not have domestic air travel markets. Their tourism and aviation industry, which relies heavily on international travel, has been badly affected by the pandemic.
Pandemic control is still the key to reopening
In addition to Hong Kong, Singapore is keen to make “travel call arrangements” with other places, said Ong, predicting “some recovery” in aviation this year.
“What’s in our favor is vaccination. What’s not in our favor are mutations and variants that are more transferable and may not respond to the vaccination. So you have these opposing forces, and I think that’s the nature of this one. fight, it keeps throwing your curveballs, ”the minister said.
“But despite that, I think vaccination is a big game changer and we hope to see some recovery sometime this year. And looking at recovery, I think a bubble is an important plank for us to work on,” he added. add to it.
Vaccination rates won’t be the only consideration for Singapore in opening its borders, Ong said. He added that the track record of countries and territories when it comes to managing pandemics is a more important factor.
The minister pointed out that even before vaccinations began, Singapore could open up to places considered “safe”.
Over the past year, Singapore has allowed visitors from various places – including Australia, New Zealand, mainland China and Taiwan – to skip quarantine if they meet certain requirements, such as a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival.
Ong said about 1,000 such travelers enter Singapore every day without having to go into quarantine, and so far have not resulted in higher Covid transmission speeds in the country.
“We still need to take a country-to-country bilateral approach,” he said.
“As a place, as a territory, or as a country, their record of infection control remains the most important outcome we need to look at. And if they are successful, we need to open up to them and organize air travel.”