The landmark deal gives travel-starved residents in both Asian cities a much-needed dose of good news.
Asia’s first reciprocal “travel bubble” finally has a definitive starting date. At press conferences held simultaneously in Hong Kong and Singapore earlier today, officials revealed that the arrangement is scheduled to begin on November 22—in less than two weeks’ time—with daily passenger numbers capped at 200 in each direction.
Singaporean transport minister Ong Ye Kung said, “this is as close as it gets to cross-border travel pre-Covid-19, and this is only possible because both Singapore and Hong Kong have successfully controlled the spread of Covid-19.” Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s commerce secretary Edward Yau cautioned that “whether the bubble can work and sustain well will depend on cooperation from all sides, including the participation of residents and their efforts in maintaining social distancing.”
The officials also explained the conditions for when Hong Kong and Singapore would pull the plug on the quarantine-free travel bubble. If the daily average of untraceable Covid-19 cases recorded over a week rises to more than five in either city, those arrangements will be suspended for 14 days. The travel bubble will only resume once the number of unlinked cases has dropped to the threshold of five daily infections or less.
The launch on November 22 will see Singapore Airlines flying one-way from the Lion City to Hong Kong, with Cathay Pacific doing the same from Hong Kong to Singapore. The two carriers must then take turns running passenger services for the first few weeks. From November 23 to 29, SIA will operate return quarantine-free flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, while Cathay Pacific will run theirs on all the other days; SIA and CX are due to switch places from November 30 to December 6. The number of daily flights will double to two from December 7, or one from each airline.
Travelers must take these dedicated travel bubble flights, but they will not face any restrictions on their purpose of travel, and nor will they need to stick to a controlled itinerary. However, almost everyone is required to test negative through a PCR test within 72 hours of departure.
Hong Kong–bound travelers leaving Singapore this month must apply for approval at least a week before the journey, and hold a confirmed ticket to be eligible for the swab test. The pre-approval process will be dropped on December 1. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, passengers should also expect to undergo another Covid-19 test at the airport, where they must remain until their negative test results have been released.
Hong Kong–based travelers heading to Singapore can take a PCR test at these recognized clinics or testing centers in the territory within 72 hours of their scheduled departure time; children aged 12 or below are exempt from the testing requirement. Non-Singaporeans must apply for an Air Travel Pass between seven and 30 days before their planned date of entry into the Lion City, and applications will be accepted starting tomorrow (November 12) at 8 a.m. On arrival in Singapore, travelers must download and register the TraceTogether mobile app and have it activated throughout their stay; they should also retain the app for 14 days after leaving as an extra precaution. No contact tracing app is necessary for Singaporeans going to Hong Kong.