Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble to begin on November 22

New scheme will begin with one flight a day into each city, with a quota of 200 travellers per flight.

Greater Bay Airline
Closed counters are seen at the departures hall of Hong Kong International Airport, following the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong, China [Lam Yik/ Reuters]

A travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will begin on November 22, the two cities announced on Wednesday, as they moved to re-establish overseas travel links and lift the hurdle of quarantine for visiting foreigners.

Hong Kong’s Commerce Secretary and Singapore’s Transport Minister said the scheme would begin with one flight a day into each city, with a quota of 200 travellers per flight. This would be increased to two flights a day into each city from December 7.

If the COVID-19 situation deteriorated in either city the travel bubble would be suspended, they said.

Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said he believed the travel bubble was the first of its kind in the world and enabled both cities to open up borders in a controlled manner while maintaining safety.

“While we may be starting small, this is an important step forward,” he said. “It will be a useful reference for other countries and regions that have controlled the epidemic and are contemplating opening their borders.”

Travellers from both cities must travel on designated flights and must undertake COVID-19 tests within 72 hours before their departure, while people arriving in Hong Kong must take a second test at the airport.

They must also have no history of travel to any places other than
Singapore or Hong Kong in the 14 days prior to departure.

No quarantine would be required in either place and there would be no restrictions on the purpose of travel.

Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s commerce secretary, said the revival of cross-border travel between the two cities reflected the Hong Kong government’s hope to revive economic activities amid “the long-drawn battle against COVID-19.

“We hope that aviation, tourism, hotel, retail and catering businesses can benefit from it, thereby enabling Hong Kong’s economy to recover gradually,” he said.

For Hong Kong, which has banned non-residents since March, the deal with Singapore is its first resumption of travel ties with another city. Travellers from mainland China and neighbouring Macau still face 14 days in quarantine.

Singapore already has pacts on essential business and official travel from China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and opened unilaterally to general visitors from a handful of countries including Brunei, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines would be the carriers offering the initial designated travel bubble flights, according to Singapore authorities.

Hong Kong recorded more than 453,000 visitor arrivals from Singapore last year, while Singapore received 489,000 visitors from Hong Kong, according to official statistics.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies