Hong Kong and Singapore push back launch of travel bubble as Covid cases rise

Singapore reported 38 new infections on Sunday, the highest in a year

The Singapore skyline
The Singapore skyline

Hong Kong and Singapore have pushed back plans for an air travel bubble (ATB) arrangement, following rising Covid-19 transmission rates.

The long-awaited air bridge, which was expected to take effect from 26 May, would enable travellers between the two Asian countries to forgo quarantine requirements.

In a statement, Singapore’s transport ministry said that “in light of the recent increase in unlinked community cases, Singapore is unable to meet the criteria to start”.

Elsewhere, the Hong Kong government published a statement, which confirmed that the target date had ben deferred.

It states that both governments “remain strongly committed to launching the ATB with a view to resuming air travel between the two regional aviation hubs and international cities in a gradual and orderly manner under a set of stringent public health control protocols”.

A further announcement is expected to follow “on or before 13 June”.

The two countries had previously agreed to suspend the bubble if the seven-day moving average of unlinked community cases rose by more than five in either city.

On Friday, a statement published by Singapore’s Ministry of Health said: “A pattern of local unlinked community cases has emerged and is persisting.

“This is worrying as it suggests that there may be unknown cases in the community with possible ongoing community transmission and that our earlier and ongoing measures to break the chains of transmissions may be insufficient.”

And on Sunday, the country reported 38 news cases of coronavirus, the highest number in more than a year.

As a consequence, strict measures were implemented over the weekend, including limiting public gatherings to just two people, prohibiting dining-in at restaurants and bars and the planned closure of schools.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been 61,585 reported cases of coronavirus and 31 deaths to date in Singapore.

The country has administered some 3.2 million doses of the vaccine, equating to around 28 per cent of the country’s population.

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