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Hong Kong-Singapore ‘travel bubble’ exposed

(CNN) – The long-awaited “air travel bubble” in Hong Kong and Singapore was exposed on Saturday – less than 24 hours before it was to be launched.
The bubble would have allowed quarantine-free flights between the two Asian hubs. But an increase in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong means the event is being postponed for two weeks, Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary of trade and economic development, told a news conference on Saturday.

Hong Kong reported 43 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, the highest daily increase in over three months. Among them, 36 were transmitted locally ̵

1; including 13 that cannot be traced.

The quarantine-free corridor was intended to increase tourism and business travel between the two Asian hubs, which have largely contained their coronavirus outbreaks. Hong Kong has registered 5,561 Covid-19 cases, including 108 deaths, since the outbreak began, while Singapore has reported 58,000 infections and 28 deaths.

Quarantine-free travel would have been a big deal for both destinations, where strict arrival rules have been in place for several months. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, both governments closed borders and denied access to most non-residents and short-term visitors. In Hong Kong, returning residents are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine and wear an electronic bracelet to track their location.

How the bubble should work

The bubble was set to begin Sunday with a flight a day into each city with a quota of 200 travelers per day. Flight – and later increased to two flights a day.

Travelers will have to meet certain parameters before setting out, such as. That they have not made trips within the previous 14 days and undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing. However, they would not be subject to any quarantine or home notice requirements or a controlled itinerary upon arrival.

However, the event always included the proviso that if the Covid-19 situation worsened in both cities, the plan would be suspended.

Singapore’s aviation authority initially announced on Saturday morning that the travel bubble with Hong Kong would be launched as planned. But later in the day, city state Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that a plan change had taken place.

“In light of the changing situation in Hong Kong, Secretary Edward Yau and I discussed further this afternoon and decided that it would be better to postpone the launch of ATB by two weeks. We will review the new launch date within two weeks and update again, “said Ong.

Hong Kong has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the last few days after weeks of steadily low cases.

The city’s Health Protection Center “strongly urged” the public to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Hong Kong and urged residents to avoid going out, eating out and having social contact.

“The scale of the increase is very alarming,” said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the infectious department at the Hong Kong Health Protection Center on Saturday.

She warned that this new rise in cases would be “very difficult to control.”

CNN’s Jessie Yeung contributed to this article.

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