Singapore reviews potential changes to Hong Kong 'travel bubble'

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Singapore’s government said it is assessing any potential changes to a planned 'travel bubble' on May 26 with Hong Kong after a flareup of coronavirus disease infections triggered a new round of social and border restrictions.

Late Tuesday the city announced it would impose a three-week crackdown, including limiting social gatherings to no more than five people and tightening border curbs, to stem the spread of a new variant first identified in India.  

“We will monitor the situation and we will review and assess whether or not there will be any changes,” said Lawrence Wong, the minister who co-chairs the Singapore government’s virus taskforce. Singapore and Hong Kong authorities remain in contact, he said.

The stay-home notice period for travelers from higher-risk countries or regions will be lengthened to 21 days, up from 14 days, Singapore announced on Tuesday. This begins from May 8.

This applies to arrivals from all countries and regions, except Australia, Brunei, mainland China, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, from Friday at 11.59pm. They will be required to serve their 21-day notice at dedicated facilities.

In addition, border measures for incoming travellers will, from May 8, be determined according to their recent travel history in the past 21 days to countries or regions, up from the current 14-day travel history period.

The growing coronavirus disease cluster in Singapore, which recorded its first coronavirus-related fatality in nearly two months at the weekend, underscores the fragility of travel agreements in the face of highly transmissible variants.

The Hong Kong-Singapore accord, which had already been delayed several times due to infection outbreaks, includes a clear threshold on the number of linked local cases before the corridor is suspended.

In Hong Kong, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, said late Tuesday the government is watching the outbreak in Singapore, though he said the number of infections is “by and large” within the agreed range.

According to the terms of the agreement, the travel bubble will be closed for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local cases is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong.

All of the five new infections Singapore reported Tuesday are tied to a growing cluster at Tan Tock Seng hospital that stands at 40 and are linked to the India variant.

These mutations are outracing vaccination progress in many places across the world, threatening to extend the pandemic.

“They are more infectious, they are causing larger clusters than before,” said Wong. “We have tried our best to ringfence the cases through contact-tracing, but we must assume that there are still hidden cases out there in the community.”-Bloomberg/Straits Times/CNA. Photo: CNA