Coronavirus: Hong Kong, Singapore in talks again over postponed travel bubble, extra safeguards mulled

PHOTO: The Straits Times file, Reuters

Hong Kong and Singapore are in discussion again over the postponed travel bubble, with both cities mulling extra safeguards amid the coronavirus pandemic , the Post has learned.

A government source said authorities on both sides were in talks over the arrangement, but it was still too early to say when it would begin.

The quarantine-free travel arrangement, touted at the time as the world’s first, was initially set for last November 22 but put on hold indefinitely on its eve following a fresh Covid-19 outbreak in Hong Kong.

“The old [conditions] still apply. But of course, both sides are discussing additional safeguards too,” the insider said without offering more details.

Hong Kong has seen its daily Covid-19 caseloads ease, with confirmed cases numbering under 20 for eight days in a row. The city will launch its mass vaccination drive next week.

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This week, the Hong Kong government relaxed tough social-distancing rules, including opening up entertainment venues and lifting the ban on evening dine-in services.

Hong Kong’s rolling seven-day average of unlinked cases stood at 4.86, having finally dipped below the threshold of five established for both sides to keep the bubble going. Before the arrangement was postponed, it was agreed a suspension of two weeks would kick in if the mark was exceeded on either side.

The number of travellers allowed per day to move within the travel bubble was capped at 200.

Conditions for the travel bubble set out last year included designated bubble flights, and for passengers to fulfil certain requirements, such as producing negative Covid-19 test results.

Before the postponement, as cases in Hong Kong started to rise, Singaporean authorities unveiled tighter measures for the scheme, requiring visitors to be tested on arrival.

They would then need to self-isolate at their place of residence or a hotel, going there only via private transport, and wait six to eight hours for test results.

The Post has contacted Singapore and Hong Kong authorities for comments.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.