Hong Kong and Singapore may once again suspend their quarantine-free travel bubble plans after a surge in coronavirus cases in Singapore, according to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau. The plan was originally set to launch on May 26, after it was originally suspended last November amid a surge in infections in Hong Kong.

Edward Yau. Photo: GovHK.

“[The Minister of Transport] has updated me with the situation in Singapore, particularly the recent increase in confirmed cases within the city,” Yau told reporters on Friday after a call with the Singaporean minister on Thursday night.

“[He] told me that there might be a high chance that the travel arrangements may not be able to resume under the agreed mechanism as we scheduled on May 26 – we will be reviewing the situation in the next couple of days,” Yau said.

Singapore. Photo: PokemonaDeChroma, via Flickr.

Hong Kong and Singapore’s travel bubble arrangements include a mechanism that determines the conditions in which the plan would start, resume, or pause, Yau said. The mechanism requires the bubble to be suspended for 17 days if either city reports more than five local cases unrelated to each other during a seven-day moving average.

The mechanism can resume if the cities record no more than three local, unrelated cases per day during the last three days of the suspension period, and if the seven-day moving average does not surpass five cases on the final day.

Singapore was reporting up to around a dozen locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases each day earlier this month, but the number shot up to 24 new local cases on Thursday. The surge and the projected infection numbers indicate that the plan will likely not be able to resume after it was first suspended last November, Yau said.

Yau said he will get in touch with his Singaporean counterpart again next week to finalise the decision.

Hotel quarantine for Taiwan travellers

Meanwhile, passengers from Taiwan to Hong Kong will now be required to quarantine at a hotel for 14 days after a surge in local cases, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said at the legislature on Friday.

Travellers from the region will also be required to undergo mandatory coronavirus tests on the 16th and 19th day after arriving in Hong Kong. They were previously required to quarantine for 14 days at home. The region recorded 13 local cases on Thursday.

After reporting zero local daily transmissions since February, the infection rate shot up to over a dozen during the past week. The Taiwanese government has tightened restrictions around mass gatherings and is mulling further measures to regain control over the spread of Covid-19, Reuters reported.

Vaccination outreach

Back in Hong Kong, the government is planning to launch a vaccination outreach programme as soon as next week amid a slow uptake. Companies and organisations may apply for medics to give their employees their chosen jab as long as the number of people at the workplace meets a minimum requirement.

File Photo: GovHK

A Civil Service Bureau spokesperson said it would first promote the scheme to construction, consultant, and public service agencies once it launches in mid-May, local media reported.

The jabs will be administered by staff from the city’s vaccination centres and the process will be similar, the bureau said.

Quarantine food supplier prosecuted

Hong Kong’s food hygiene authority are pressing charges against Danny Catering Services. Photos of substandard meal boxes supplied by the company to the Lei Yue Mun and Penny’s Bay Covid-19 quarantine camps went viral on social media along with derogatory comments last week.

Dozens of people in quarantine reported food poisoning symptoms as of Monday.

File Photo: Supplied.

The caterer’s food was found to be contaminated and was stored an improper temperatures, the Food, Environmental Hygiene Department told local media. At least one food sample was found with Bacillus cereus, a spore-forming bacteria commonly found in rie, vegetables, meat and soy products.

Officers from the department inspected the company’s facility last Friday, where they gave verbal warnings to the company, took samples and kick-started procedures for prosecution, HK01 reported. The officers visited again on Monday and saw that violations had been rectified.

Hong Kong has recorded 11,818 Covid-19 cases and 210 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.