Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble could pose threat amid jabs disparity: Expert

Hong Kong and Singaporean officials are expected to revisit a long-anticipated travel bubble at some point this month.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Singapore's plan to shift away from its zero-case coronavirus strategy could leave Hong Kong exposed to a higher risk of importing variant strains when its long-awaited travel bubble with the city state finally launches, an expert warned on Monday (July 5) as the city was expecting just one imported case.

The strategy shift, unveiled by three Singaporean ministers last month, aims at a "new normal" that presumes the virus is endemic and will be treated more like the flu going forward.

But microbiologist Ho Pak Leung on Monday noted the plan was premised on the success of that city's successful vaccination drive, which has so far seen at least 60 per cent of the population receive at least one dose.

Hong Kong's own drive, he noted, had seen far more reluctance, with just 34.8 per cent of Hong Kong residents having taken at least one dose, and 23.4 per cent fully vaccinated.

"Singapore's reopening of the tourism bubble and the exemption of passengers from quarantine may have little impact on Singapore, but it could have a much greater impact on Hong Kong," Ho told a Monday morning radio programme.

After two failed launches due to a rise in community cases for both cities, the governments of each have said they planned to review the long-awaited travel bubble as early as this month.

ALSO READ: As Singapore tightens coronavirus curbs, families hope Hong Kong travel bubble will go ahead as planned

Under the quarantine-free scheme announced in April, travellers in either direction would have to undergo screening before departing and after arrival, although only Hong Kong would require its residents to be fully vaccinated for eligibility.

The bubble will be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of unlinked Covid-19 cases in either city exceeds five.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.