Kin Cheung / AP
The scheme allowed travelers to enter without quarantine if they completed the Covid-19 tests before and after arrival, but was delayed due to a sudden surge in Hong Kong.
Singapore and Hong Kong on Saturday delayed the onset of a bubble intended to boost tourism for both cities, citing a spike in infections in Chinese territory as a “sober reminder” of the risks to public health.
The travel bubble, which was originally scheduled to begin on Sunday, will be delayed by at least two weeks, Hong Kong’s Minister of Trade and Economic Development Edward Yau said at a news conference.
The scheme aims to allow travelers between the two cities to enter without quarantine, as long as they complete coronavirus tests before and after arriving at their destination and are flying on designated flights.
Hong Kong reported 43 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, including 13 untraceable local infections.
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“For a plan to succeed, they must meet the condition of ensuring public health, as well as ensuring that both parties feel comfortable and safe with the plan,” said Yau. “In light of the situation in Hong Kong, I think this is the responsible way to put this back for a while and then relaunch it at an appropriate time.”
Under the original agreement, the travel bubble would be suspended if the number of untraceable local infections in Singapore or Hong Kong exceeded five on a seven-day moving average. The current average in Hong Kong is nearly four, prompting Yau and Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung to delay the inaugural flight.
On Friday, Hong Kong’s top health official said the city had “likely” entered another wave of cases. Recent clusters include taxi drivers, a dance studio and hotels.
Hong Kong has confirmed a total of 5,561 cases, including 108 deaths. Singapore has reported 58,148 cases, but only 28 deaths.
Ahead of the postponement, Singapore said Saturday morning that travelers arriving from Hong Kong through the bubble will need to undergo a coronavirus test upon arrival. Originally, only people landing in Hong Kong were to be tested.
Ong said in a Facebook post that the delay is “a sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us.”
“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travelers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to procrastinate from a public health point of view, ”he wrote.