S'pore calls as travel bubble set to fly

Top News | Sophie Hui and Wallis Wang 30 Oct 2020

Singapore is gearing up to welcome Hong Kong travelers with strict hygiene standards as the travel bubble between the two cities begins next month.

Forty-two attractions, including Garden by the Bay, Sentosa and Singapore Zoo, have been reopened. Shops and restaurants, cinemas, parks, playgrounds and gyms also resumed operation in July.

The Singaporean government has not announced the tour packages for Hong Kong travelers but activities like kayak fishing and Marina Bay night tours have been launched for locals.

"The Singapore Tourism Board and the travel partners here in Hong Kong, online travel agents and our tourism partners back in Singapore are in the midst of putting together some of the experiences and deals for the Hong Kong market," said Rachel Lim, area director of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan at the Singapore Tourism Board.

"When the time is right, these will be rolled out and announced later with our partners.

"When the air travel bubble begins, the most important type of traveler will be the people who travel for essential reasons, so we expect business travelers need to make that trip," Lim said

"Hong Kong travelers who are visiting friends and relatives in Singapore will also be another important type of travelers we will see."

Lim said several anti-pandemic measures have been imposed in the Lion City, including a TraceTogether mobile app and a physical token, and SafeEntry digital check-in system.

The TraceTogether app and token can record other people nearby, which helps contact tracing, while the SafeEntry system can log details of individuals visiting different spots in the city.

Social distancing measures have also been imposed, with a limit of 20 members in a tour group, divided into sub-groups of no more than five people.

Tours must not exceed eight hours and members need to wear masks at all times.

Most attractions have an operating capacity of no more than 50 percent.

Visitors can recognize shops, malls, restaurants, hotels and attractions with good sanitation standards and hygiene practices by the SG Clean quality mark. More than 25,000 premises have been certified since the quality mark was launched in February.

Meanwhile, Singapore will lift its border restrictions for all visitors from mainland China and Australia's Victoria state from next Friday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced yesterday.

They will undergo a Covid-19 test upon arrival at the airport. If their test result is negative, they will be allowed to visit the city without quarantine.

The travel arrangement with the mainland is a unilateral one, meaning travelers have to undergo a 14-day quarantine after returning to China, but the travel bubble arrangement with Hong Kong is bilateral so travelers do not need to quarantine in both places.

Separately, a University of Hong Kong infectious disease professor, Ho Pak-leung, said requiring arrivals from 14 high-risk areas to provide negative Covid-19 test results taken within 72 hours before their flights is too loose, and he suggested shortening it to 48 hours. But government adviser David Hui Shu-cheong disagreed.

Ho said yesterday airlines traveling from high-risk countries, including India and Nepal, have been asked to suspend services several times as they carried more than five Covid-19 patients to Hong Kong each time, despite all passengers being tested before boarding.

He added the border control measures made by the Hong Kong government have improved, but the authorities could tighten the control to further reduce imported cases.

But Hui, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the current anti-epidemic measures taken by Hong Kong authorities were effective as arrivals need to be quarantined and tested.

Hui said it would be difficult to shorten the effective time of the testing result as international arrivals from the United States or Europe would spend more time in traveling because of the distance. Passengers should be given a reasonable time to take the test before boarding to ensure the quality of the sample.

"The most important thing is the quality of the testing sample, otherwise it will affect the result of the test and bring potential danger to the community," Hui said.

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