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Hong Kong and Singapore confirm date for launch of new ‘travel bubble’

Hong Kong (CNN) – Hong Kong and Singapore have set a date for the launch of their new “air travel bubble,” which will allow residents to travel between the two Asian hubs without requiring quarantine or restrictive control measures.

The Singapore Aviation Authority says the “first air travel bubble” (ATB) will begin on November 22nd “after negotiations are concluded earlier this week”.

“The ATB is a milestone between two aviation hubs and seeks to revitalize air travel in a safe and advanced way,” said a press release from the Singapore Civil Aviation Authority on Wednesday.

Travelers between the two cities will undergo mandatory Covid-19 tests prior to the flight.

It is crucial that travelers are not subject to any quarantine or cancellation obligations or a controlled travel route.

“Initially there will be one flight per day to each city with a quota of 200 travelers per flight. This will be increased from December 7, 2020 to two flights per day in each city with a quota of 200 travelers per flight.” the statement adds.

Passengers must meet certain parameters before boarding, e.g. B. that you have not traveled in the last 14 days.

The announcement indicates that the ATB will be suspended if the situation in Covid-19 worsens in either city.

“With the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble, we can achieve two goals at the same time – open our borders in a controlled manner and at the same time ensure the security of our societies,” said Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s Minister of Transport.

“While we may be starting small, this is an important step forward. I have no doubt that both Singapore and Hong Kong will work together fully to make this program work. It will be a useful reference for other countries and regions that are doing this System controlled. ” Epidemic and are considering opening their borders. “

Open trips in both the Chinese city and the Southeast Asian country have been suspended for months. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, both governments closed their borders and denied entry 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. However, both cities have managed to get their Covid outbreaks under control and have reported low numbers of local infections in the past few months. Therefore, according to a statement published in October, they basically agreed on the travel bubble plan during the October discussions 15.

“This marks a milestone in our efforts to restore normalcy in the fight against the protracted battle of Covid-19,” Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Trade and Economic Development, said in the statement.

Contains local outbreaks

The travel bubble and low Covid-19 cases reflect a remarkable turnaround in both locations.

Hong Kong saw a third wave earlier this summer, with new cases jumping from the single-digit numbers to a high of 149 in July. The restrictions, which had quickly eased, returned, with public gatherings limited to two and a brief total suspension of all dining services.

The restrictions met with public criticism at times – construction workers and day laborers, for example, were photographed crouching on the sidewalk or near public bathrooms with take-out boxes.

But the restrictions seem to have worked too: Hong Kong’s number of new cases had dropped to about a dozen a day by August, and even hit zero on some days.

Earlier this spring, Singapore struggled to contain the rising numbers of infections, with daily cases topping 1,000 a day through April. The vast majority of the cases occurred in overcrowded dormitories for migrant workers, many from South and Southeast Asian countries such as Bangladesh and India.

Authorities have completely locked dormitories, relocated infected residents and carried out other measures such as mass testing. Control of the outbreak lasted months and exposed the poor living conditions of migrant workers in front of a global audience – but cases gradually declined over the summer. By August, the daily case numbers had dropped to dozens.

After the situation stabilized, Singapore eased its restrictions. Aside from the Hong Kong travel bubble, it has also agreed to reopen cross-border travel for important business with Indonesia and partially reopen the land border with Malaysia for business travel.

Originally published October 2020 and updated with new information on November 11, 2020.

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