HONG KONG (The Straits Times/ANN): The launch of the travel bubble arrangement between Singapore and Hong Kong is expected to be delayed further as the Chinese territory hunkers down under harsher social distancing measures in anticipation of what health authorities have warned could be the worst Covid-19 wave so far.
Officials of both cities are expected to announce the extension of the postponement soon, The Straits Times understands.
The first flight was originally planned for Nov 22 but both governments announced the delay on Nov 21. The authorities at the time said they would review the situation and decide by early December.
The extension would not come as a surprise as the seven-day moving average of unknown local cases in Hong Kong as at Monday (Nov 30) was 16. The threshold agreed by Singapore and Hong Kong is five cases.
So far, Hong Kong has a total of more than 6,300 cases, including 109 deaths. The number of daily new infections has crossed 70 for more than a week.
This spike was led initially by a growing dance club cluster of more than 500, most of whom are tai-tais and their young dancing instructors.
Professor Ben Cowling, an infectious disease expert from the Hong Kong University, said he expected the fourth wave to begin sooner when measures were relaxed in September as there is always a risk of transmission re-surging if infections are reintroduced.
"I think the priority now has to be to strengthen social distancing measures, taking reference from the measures that were effective in curtailing the second and third waves in March-April and July-August respectively.
"That includes recommending civil servants to work from home, and closing gyms and other leisure facilities," he said.
In the past week, the government has made a series of orders, from mandating dance club visitors to go for compulsory tests to ordering patrons of specific eateries to go for the tests as the virus circulates.
From Dec 2 for two weeks, dine-in services will end two hours earlier at 10pm, with patrons capped at two per table. Bars, pubs, saunas, clubs, nightclubs and party rooms will remain closed.
All amusement game centres, leisure venues, museums, cinemas, theme parks, karaoke establishments, mahjong clubs and swimming pools must be closed.
Gyms, massage and beauty parlours can stay open but the number of patrons must be capped at two, while civil servants are to work from home and public gatherings limited to two.
The tightening of measures comes as local transmissions, particularly among the city's rich and powerful, have spread like wildfire, initially with some socialites linked directly to the dance club cluster and later, expanded as they continued to mingle over meals and mahjong. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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