Hong Kong is set to launch quarantine-free travel with Singapore on May 26, with stricter public health measures in place, after the plan was suspended last November amid a surge in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau announced on Monday that the bilateral air travel bubble scheme between the two cities will begin in a month’s time, at the earliest.
Yau said both governments agreed to impose more stringent measures to resume cross-border air travel gradually amid “stabilised epidemic situations” in the two financial hubs. He said the government had to make people “feel safe” and maintain a certain degree of stability to avoid opening and closing the Hong Kong-Singapore travel corridor from time to time.
“Our goal remains striking a right balance between public health and travel convenience so that the public will rest assured while maintaining certainty,” Yau said.
Under the scheme, travellers should not have visited any places other than Hong Kong and Singapore 14 days prior to their departure. If a traveller just returned to Hong Kong or Singapore from elsewhere, their quarantine period will not count towards the two-week requirement. They will have to wait for another fortnight before joining the travel bubble scheme.
“It has been a long few months, but the conditions are now ripe again to re-launch the ATB [Air Travel Bubble]. Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next one month, so that we can launch the first flights smoothly,” said Singapore’s minister for transport Ong Ye Kung in a press release.
Travellers from Hong Kong must complete two Covid-19 vaccine doses at least 14 days before they take a designated flight to Singapore. They will be required to use a government-developed app TraceTogether during their visit in Singapore, while Singaporean visitors will need to use the Hong Kong government’s LeaveHomeSafe app while they are in the city.
Both apps have sparked concerns over data privacy, with the Singaporean authorities admitting in January that local police have access to the data on the contact-tracing app. The Hong Kong government, on the other hand, repeatedly said the LeaveHomeSafe app had no tracking function and would not pose a risk to privacy.
Travellers using the scheme will be exempted from quarantine and their purpose for travelling will be unrestricted. They will also need a negative result from a Covid-19 test recognised by both places within 72 hours before their trip.
Hong Kong and Singapore first agreed to setting up an air travel bubble last November and the plan was scheduled to be rolled out in the same month. But the proposal was put on hold after Hong Kong recorded a rise in Covid-19 cases.
As of Sunday, Hong Kong registered 11,736 coronavirus infections, with 209 related deaths. Meanwhile, Singapore saw 40 new imported cases on Sunday, taking the country’s infection toll to 61,006.
On Sunday, the Food and Health Bureau announced it would suspend mobile sampling services by the Shenzhen-based BGI Group, after its laboratory produced close to 30 false positive Covid-19 test results.
The BGI Group earlier reported 30 positive preliminary test results, but only two were found to be positive after a review by the Hospital Authority. The private company later revealed their test samples were cross-contaminated.
The government told local media that it has requested that the BGI Group submit a report and follow up on recommendations by leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, who inspected the BGI Group’s laboratory.
The Food and Health Bureau said they decided to halt the BGI Group’s sampling services at mobile testing sites before they receive an investigation report. They said they may penalise the company based on the severity of the incident, including terminating their contract.