Hong Kong and Singapore Set to Launch “Travel Bubble”

An agreement has just been reached for future quarantine-free travel between the two cities.

Duk Ling, a traditional junk boat, seen on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. (Photo: f9photos/iStock)

Residents of the Lion City may not have to wait much longer to jet off for a winter vacation in Hong Kong, and vice versa. This afternoon, both the South China Morning Post and the Straits Times reported that the governments of the two jurisdictions had agreed to set up a “travel bubble” in the coming weeks. While the details still need to be ironed out, sources revealed that the basics were nailed down in principle, with all travelers required to test negative for Covid-19 before embarking on a trip.

Quarantines will no longer be enforced at both ends, and travelers do not need to stick to a predetermined itinerary. Unlike the Reciprocal Green Lane arrangements now in place between Singapore and multiple countries (including Malaysia, China, and Japan), the “bubble” will not be restricted to officials, diplomats, and business travelers sponsored by a company or the government; general visitors can fly between the cities without applying for a special visa or entry pass. However, mechanisms will be in place to change or even suspend the bubble on short notice should there be a sudden spike of Covid-19 infections in either city.

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented Hong Kong and Singapore with a unique set of challenges: both are international aviation hubs, and neither has a domestic hinterland to fall back when it comes to aiding the the recovery of their aviation sectors and providing an outlet for citizens accustomed to traveling freely. According to the South China Morning Post, airlines will be asked to operate dedicated flights not open to transit passengers.

Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s commerce secretary, told journalists today, “this is the first travel bubble we will form”; the local government is pursuing similar agreements with at least 10 other countries. Meanwhile, Singapore has already placed Hong Kong on the list of areas where the pandemic situation is “well under control and the risk of importation is low”; the Straits Times quoted transport minister Ong Ye Kung as saying that “the risk of a Hong Konger bringing the virus into Changi is not very different from someone coming from Jurong.” No tentative dates have been set for the launch of the bubble, but aviation experts are hopeful it can be rolled out as soon as December.

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