HK-Singapore bubble halted again amid jitters over migrant infections

The launch of a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore could be announced early next week, sources said, though it might not commence until late in May. This followed the Singapore government calling off an announcement about the launch that was scheduled for yesterday. No reason...

Jane Cheung

Friday, April 23, 2021

The launch of a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore could be announced early next week, sources said, though it might not commence until late in May.

This followed the Singapore government calling off an announcement about the launch that was scheduled for yesterday.

No reason was given for the action - the second time in five months that the highly anticipated arrangement for quarantine-free travel has run into obstacles - though the cancellation was initiated by Singapore, Bloomberg reported.

But authorities in both places remained optimistic about the plan.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said discussions are "at an advanced stage" and announcements will be made as soon as is practicable.

The bubble was agreed in November and was to launch that month. But it went on hold due to the emergence of the fourth wave of Covid-19.

A bureau spokesman said: "With gradual stabilization of Hong Kong's epidemic situation since February the two governments have been engaging in active discussions on the bubble."

Transport ministry officials in Singapore said their hope was for the long-delayed program to start "very soon."

Yesterday's delay in an announcement from Singapore was also taken by some people to reflect concerns there of new worries about cases among its migrant worker community, which drove a major outbreak last year. Authorities were investigating the possibility of reinfections among residents of a migrant workers' dormitory after testing showed 10 positive cases in the facility.

In Hong Kong, tourism sector legislator Yiu Si-wing said both jurisdictions are cautious about rebooting the bubble after the setbacks.

Yiu also said the bubble scheme could be realized next month.

On local tours, Yiu spoke of them resuming after the first week of May.

He said authorities and the tourism sector reached a consensus that people taking the tours do not need to be vaccinated but would have to use the "LeaveHomeSafe" app. But tour guides and coach drivers would have to be inoculated.

People not fit for a vaccination due to health problems would almost certainly need to undergo Covid-19 tests before tours.

Details are expected from the Executive Council on Tuesday.

"We'll need some time to inform people in the sector and prepare," Yiu said, so tours "are not likely to restart on the weekend of May 1. Maybe May 8 or 9 at the earliest."

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com