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Coronavirus

Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble to be relaunched in one month

Travelers from Hong Kong need to be fully vaccinated 14 days before departure

Cityscapes of Hong Kong, left, and Singapore. (Source photos by Reuters) 

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong and Singapore will relaunch a long-awaited "air travel bubble" scheme on May 26, exempting travelers between the two business hubs from quarantine requirements.

To join the bubble, Hong Kong residents must complete two vaccine shots 14 days before flights to Singapore, except for those younger than 16 or unfit for vaccination due to medical reasons. There is no vaccination requirement for Singaporeans.

Travelers from both sides must also present negative COVID-19 test results from recognized clinics within 72 hours of flying, and must have stayed in their home cities for at least 14 days before departure. Upon arrival, travelers have to use local contact tracing apps to record places they visit.

From May 26 onward, there will be one daily flight in each direction with 200 passengers per aircraft, and a second flight will be added from June 10. People who travel under the arrangement can only take these dedicated flights and begin their itineraries after a second negative test result at the arrival airport.

Both governments agreed that the bubble will be suspended for two weeks if either city sees a daily average of untraceable COVID-19 cases surpassing five over the course of seven days. The travel corridor -- scheduled to open in November -- was shelved after cases flared up in Hong Kong late last year.

"The relaunch of the ATB not only meets the aspirations of the people and business communities on cross-border travel, but also signifies that gradual resumption of cross-border travel is achievable through mutual collaborations among different places," said Edward Yau, Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development.

"Our goal remains striking a right balance between public health and travel convenience so that the public will rest assured while maintaining certainty," Yau said, adding that Hong Kong is also in discussion with other countries to establish a similar air travel bubble.

Meanwhile, Singapore's Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said the "conditions are now ripe again" to relaunch the air travel bubble, which he calls a "significant" arrangement between two aviation and financial services hubs in Asia.

"Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next one month, so that we can launch the first flights smoothly," Ong said in a statement.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore have only recorded a handful of local cases daily in recent weeks and have started to ease social distancing rules, even as concerns over infections remain as new virus variants emerge.

Singapore had 489,000 visitor arrivals from Hong Kong in 2019, while Hong Kong received 453,282 travelers from Singapore -- representing only a fraction of the 67 million and 71 million passengers the two places served, respectively, during the same period.

Shares in Hong Kong's flagship Cathay Pacific Airways were up 2.75% as of Monday afternoon, while Singapore Airlines was up 2.39% from Friday's close.

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