Singapore, Hong Kong defer ‘travel bubble’

Singapore and Hong Kong have put off a plan to introduce a travel bubble amid the latter’s sudden spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

A report by the Bangkok Post on Saturday, November 21, quoted Hong Kong’s Commerce Secretary Edward Yau as saying that the two parties have agreed on deferring putting off the plan for two weeks to observe the virus situation in the southern Chinese city.

For his part, Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung wrote on his Facebook page: “This is a sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs.”

The decision was scrapped a day before it was launched.

The postponement was a blow not just to the two cities’ tourism industries but also to other countries hoping to follow suit in a bid to support their ailing economies amid the global pandemic.

With the two having the smallest populations and are heavily depending on external links, Singapore and Hong Kong were hit hard as the global economy collapsed.

Shortly after the pandemic emerged, both countries immediately imposed a strict physical distancing and border measures to keep the outbreak at bay.

Following weeks of single-digits infections, Hong Kong health authorities said that the number of virus cases saw a sudden uptick in recent days.

As of Saturday, Hong Kong saw 36 local coronavirus cases out of a total of 45. Of the total, 13, unfortunately, were not tracked, prompting fears that the city has a new wave of out-of-control infections.

Hong Kong and Singapore both agreed that five or more unknown transmission could be enough to officially halt the travel bubble.

The travel bubble is a tourism recovery plan for countries in the world that is open to all residents of the two countries and not just select travelers. It was being closely watched by other jurisdictions including Thailand which has been heavily reliant on the tourism sector.

Singapore is one of Hong Kong’s major markets, having recorded 450,000 arrivals from the city-state recorded in 2019, based on data by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Photo from Flickr