SINGAPORE — A review of the proposed Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) is set for early July, said the Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Thursday (10 June), after its launch was previously deferred several times.
The launch was deferred from a target date of 26 May following a mutual agreement between Minister for Transport S Iswaran and Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau, due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in Singapore.
MOT noted that the situation in Singapore has since improved, with the number of community cases and local unlinked coronavirus cases showing a downward trend. Meanwhile, the situation in Hong Kong continues to remain stable, with very few community cases over the past few weeks.
"Both Singapore and Hong Kong remain strongly committed to launching the ATB safely. We will continue to monitor the public health situation in both places closely," said MOT.
The travel bubble was initially announced on 11 November 2020 to much fanfare, touted as the first of its kind in the region, or even the world. However, just 10 days later, the original 22 November launch was suspended for two weeks due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong.
It was later delayed indefinitely on 1 December "in view of the severity of the epidemic situation in Hong Kong with the number of local cases of unknown sources increasing rapidly," said the Hong Kong government.
Separately, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who co-chairs a multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19, told reporters at a virtual press conference that there are no "firm plans" for a travel bubble with South Korea.
"I think it's actually good to continue discussions with different partners, regions and countries on what are the possibilities going ahead, but as of now I don't think there are any firm plans."
Ong was responding to a question about reports that South Korea aims to expedite travel bubble talks with Singapore to allow quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated people from as early as July. Ong, who was previously Transport Minister, noted that the term "travel bubble" has often been loosely used.
In the case of Singapore and Hong Kong, they are two "very safe regions" that want to form a free travel area, which involves pre-departure testing and on-arrival testing, without any quarantine when passengers arrive, Ong said. "In the case of South Korea, I believe the concept has been a vaccinated travel bubble, which means if both regions have managed their infections up to a very low level...and they are confident that if travellers are vaccinated, it's safe enough to travel with some precautions."
He added, "I think these are concepts that we need to think about, for the medium term, and definitely not in this period, when we are just recovering from this wave of transmission and opening up in stages, but I think it's always good that we cast our minds several months down the road, because we do need to live our lives normally and resume normalcy."
Stay in the know on-the-go: Join Yahoo Singapore's Telegram channel at http://t.me/YahooSingapore