May 15, 2021 04:03 PM

Singapore to Delay Hong Kong Travel Bubble Yet Again Amid Rising Covid-19 Cases

(The Straits Times) — The air travel bubble to allow for quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Hong Kong is likely to be delayed yet again, given the rising number of Covid-19 community cases in Singapore.

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday said: "It is very likely that Singapore will not be able to meet the resumption criteria.

"What we will do now is to closely monitor the numbers the next few days to review the start date, and early next week, we will make a decision and an announcement."

The bubble was slated to take off on May 26, six months after its initial planned launch in November last year. It was deferred by both parties due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong.

Both cities had agreed that the air travel bubble will be suspended when the seven-day moving average of the unlinked community cases in either Singapore or Hong Kong increases to above five.

There have been 15 unlinked Covid-19 cases in Singapore in the past week. This works out to a moving average of about two cases a day, which is still below the threshold to trigger a pause in the travel bubble.

Mr. Ong, who was speaking at a virtual press conference held by the task force combating the pandemic, said he had briefed Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau on Friday morning about the Covid-19 situation in Singapore.

He said that both cities are strongly committed to the bubble, but have to start it safely. They would also respect the resumption mechanisms that both sides had agreed on.

Mr. Ong said that Hong Kong is a "very safe region" now, with daily Covid-19 cases ranging between zero and two.

Earlier this week, both cities had expressed optimism that the bubble could still take flight.

On Wednesday, Mr Yau noted that the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases in both cities was below the threshold of five that would trigger a pause in the arrangement.

Singapore's Transport Ministry the same day said that Hong Kong was "recording very low or zero daily cases currently", adding that it will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation in both cities.

This story was first published in The Straits Times.

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