By creating a travel pact, Asia’s two big financial hubs aim to ease travel difficulties for residents of both nations and visiting foreigners, with what both governments claim is the “world’s first” reciprocal travel bubble.
Hong Kong’s Commerce Secretary Edward Yau and Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung issued a joint statement saying that travellers under the scheme would only need to present a negative Covid-19 test result to be allowed to travel freely on dedicated flights. However, the details of the scheme, including the launch date, are yet to be fleshed out in the coming weeks.
“It is a safe, careful but significant step forward to revive air travel, and provide a model for future collaboration with other parts of the world,” Singapore’s Mr Ong said.
Hong Kong banned all non-residents from entering its borders in March when it started seeing the first few cases of its coronavirus outbreak. The residents of mainland China and Macau also had to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon arrival. The city has since reported 5,213 infections and 105 deaths so far.
The pact with Singapore is Hong Kong’s first attempt at creating a travel bubble as Covid-19 cases start to fall. However, Singapore has gone further, easing restrictions for essential business and official travel for a list of countries including China, Japan and South Korea. Singapore also closed its borders in March, and has 57,889 confirmed cases and 28 deaths so far.
Both cities have managed to get their Coronavirus outbreak under control with falling local infections.
“This is a milestone in our efforts to resume normalcy while fighting against the long-drawn battle of Covid-19,” Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, said in the statement.
Although Hong Kong and Singapore claimed it is the first bubble of its kind, the measures appear not dissimilar to the UK‘s system of travel corridors. In the UK’s case, however, the rules are subject to changes at short notice as the caseload of coronavirus shifts in the countries involved.