Hong Kong, Singapore delay planned travel bubble for two weeks (update)


HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, Nov 21 (Bloomberg): Hong Kong and Singapore postponed the world’s first quarantine-free travel bubble for two weeks after a surge of new coronavirus infections in Hong Kong, a setback for their flagship airlines and tourism businesses looking to kickstart a recovery.

The inaugural flights, scheduled to depart Sunday (Nov 22), were delayed by the governments because of the spike of local infections in Hong Kong, Edward Yau, the city’s secretary for commerce and economic development, said Saturday.

Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on his Facebook page that he spoke to Yau Saturday and they decided to defer the plan.

Under the current agreement between the two financial hubs, the arrangement is suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases rises to five in either city. The average rose to 3.9 on Saturday from 2.1 a day earlier.

The details of the formal re-introduction of the plan will be announced early next month, Yau said.

Hong Kong reported 43 new virus cases on Saturday, the highest in three months.

The figure included 13 locally transmitted infections whose source was untraceable, suggesting there may be super-spreaders in the city.

Earlier, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said in a statement Saturday that the travel bubble plan would go as planned.

Hong Kong has a "comprehensive public health surveillance system” and the overall incidence rate is still low, the aviation authority said.

The travel bubble, which allows a limited number of passengers to fly both ways without having to go through quarantine, will be revisited in early December, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau told media.

"In the light of the recent upsurge of local cases, we have decided together with Singapore government that (we) will defer the launch of the shuttle bubble by two weeks," he said. "Today's decision is a responsible decision."

The suspension also comes as Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily toll in nearly three months. It is also facing more than 60 preliminary cases. - Bloomberg
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