Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble, slated for Sunday start, is postponed by 2 weeks

SINGAPORE - MARCH 24: Local residents are seen leaving the arrival terminal at Changi Airport on March 24, 2020 in Singapore. Singapore will not allow short term visitors to enter or transit through the country from March 24 to contain the spread of the imported COVID-19  infection.  (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
Changi Airport arrival hall. (PHOTO: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

UPDATE: Minister of Transport Ong Ye Kung announced on Saturday afternoon (21 November) that the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble launch date – which was supposed to be on Sunday – will be deferred by two weeks.

SINGAPORE — Air travel bubble (ATB) flights between Singapore and Hong Kong – slated to begin on Sunday (22 November) – will be postponed by two weeks, following an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong.

Singapore’s Minister of Transport, Ong Ye Kung, made the announcement on his Facebook post on Saturday, after holding discussions with Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau.

“Given the evolving situation in Hong Kong, Secretary Edward Yau and I discussed further this afternoon, and decided that it would be better to defer the launch of the ATB, by two weeks,” he wrote in his Facebook post.

“We will review within two weeks on the new launch date and update again.

“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint.

“The airlines will be contacting the travellers individually.

“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. But we will press on and look forward to when we can safely launch the ATB.”

On Saturday, Hong Kong had reported 43 new COVID-19 cases, of which 36 were locally-transmitted. Singapore had reported five new cases, all of which are imported cases.

Earlier on Saturday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) had said that ATB flights would proceed as planned on Sunday, but all arriving passengers from Hong Kong will be required to take an additional COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at Changi Airport.

It added that, under the terms of the ATB agreement, the bubble will be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases exceeds five per day.

This will trigger a two-day notice period, after which suspension will come into effect. Prevailing border measures – a 7-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) in the case of travellers from Hong Kong – will then apply upon entry into Singapore.

CAAS added in a media release later on Saturday that travellers may still continue their journey on non-designated ATB flights. However, such travellers will be subject to the prevailing border control and health requirements of both cities. For example, Singapore residents returning from Hong Kong will be subject to a seven-day SHN upon entry into Singapore.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) also released a statement on Saturday saying that customers who no longer wish to travel due to the deferment of the ATB can request for a full refund of the un-utilised portion of their air ticket, and have the cancellation fees waived.

All its flights between Singapore and Hong Kong (SQ890 and SQ891) between Sunday and 6 December will now operate as non-ATB flights. Customers will need to ensure that they meet the respective entry requirements and adhere to quarantine measures upon arrival.

“(SIA) supports the decision by the Singapore and Hong Kong authorities to defer the launch of the Air Travel Bubble (ATB). The health and safety of our customers remain our top priority,” it said in the statement.

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