Singapore Airlines crew members at Changi International Airport in Singapore on Oct. 24, 2020.
Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images
SINGAPORE — Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed their air travel bubble arrangements for two weeks, according to Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development.
The announcement comes just hours after Singapore said the agreement, which was set to take effect on Sunday, would go ahead as planned despite a rise in new coronavirus cases in Hong Kong.
“So doing is necessary to avoid any inconvenience caused by the abrupt changes of the scheme to passengers, particularly those (who) need to return back to Hong Kong,” said Edward Yau.
The situation will be reviewed and both sides will keep each other informed of further developments, he added, saying they will make an announcement in December about the formal launching of the scheme.
Earlier Saturday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced that all arriving passengers from Hong Kong would be required to take an additional Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test upon arrival. They would also need to self-isolate in their place of residence — be it a hotel or home — as they wait for the results which will take about six to eight hours, the aviation authority said.
To be clear, all passengers from Hong Kong under the air travel bubble agreement would have already been required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test and obtain a negative test result before departing for Singapore.
The initial air travel bubble agreement announced on Nov. 11 did not require any isolation of passengers from Hong Kong upon arrival. It was due to start on Nov. 22 with a single flight daily into each city, limited to a maximum of 200 passengers per flight. The number of flights will increase only if the spread of Covid-19 in both cities remains under control.
Hong Kong reported Friday that the number of new daily cases rose to 26, and most of them were local infections. The city reportedly announced another 43 cases on Saturday.
“We have probably entered into a new wave of cases,” the city’s Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said in a press briefing on Friday, citing experts from the Centre for Health Protection.
She said the situation was “severe” and urged citizens to stop all unnecessary gatherings.
The government met late Friday to finalize other contingency measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus, and will not rule out more stringent restrictions, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a Facebook post.
Hong Kong imposed new restrictions on Saturday, including the banning of clubs and party rooms, as well as prohibiting live performances and dancing in bars and pubs. The government announced earlier that primary schools will be suspended for two weeks from Monday.
Travel authorities from both sides have always said the deal will be suspended if the Covid-19 situation in either city deteriorates.
Singapore’s aviation authority reiterated on Saturday that the air travel bubble “will be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases exceeds five per day.”
“The figure for Hong Kong is currently at 2.14,” CAAS said. “The threshold will be exceeded if there are more than 22 unlinked cases in Hong Kong over the next three days. This will trigger a two-day notice period, after which suspension will come into effect.”
“The Singapore and Hong Kong health authorities are in close contact and monitoring the situation,” the aviation authority said.