Covid-19: Hong Kong Won’t ‘Rush to Resume Travel,’ Says Carrie Lam

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Covid-19: Hong Kong Won’t ‘Rush to Resume Travel,’ Says Carrie Lam” – below is their description.

    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says her priority is to keep Hong Kong safe from Covid-19, after delaying an air travel bubble with Singapore for a second time.

    “Will will not sort of sacrifice this very important mission just because we want to rush to resume travel,” said Lam. “This highly responsible attitude is being displayed by Singapore and Hong Kong in postponing for a second time, the air travel bubble.”

    An air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong has been delayed as the city-state battles an increase in unlinked cases tied to a more aggressive and transmissible coronavirus strain, prompting Hong Kong to add Singapore to its list of high-risk nations.

    A further announcement on the travel corridor should be made on or before June 13, the Hong Kong government said in a statement. Singapore Minister for Transport S. Iswaran said that as the island nation is unable to meet the criteria to start the travel bubble, both sides have agreed to defer the launch, which was due to start May 26.

    Both governments remain committed to the arrangement, “with a view to resuming air travel between the two regional aviation hubs and international cities in a gradual and orderly manner under a set of stringent public health control protocols,” the Hong Kong government said in its statement.

    Singapore’s government last week imposed lockdown-like restrictions for a month until June 13 amid a rise in untraceable virus infections. The biggest number of new cases are linked to a cluster at Changi Airport, which prompted the closure of two terminals and the Jewel shopping complex for two weeks. Dining in restaurants is also banned.

    The spike in cases prompted Hong Kong to reclassify Singapore as a high-risk destination, joining six other countries including Argentina, Italy and Kenya, according to a statement Monday. That means arrivals to Hong Kong from Singapore must quarantine at designated hotels for 21 days as well as present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding their flights. The quarantine is reduced to 14 days for fully vaccinated travelers.

    The bubble, which would have permitted quarantine-free travel betwen the two cities, was to involve special flights on Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. Both airlines have been hurt particularly hard during the pandemic because neither has any domestic market upon which to rely. With international travel all but off limits, passenger numbers have plummeted, inflicting severe financial pain on the carriers.

    The flareup is a major setback by Singapore standards considering the city-state is one of a handful of “Covid havens” that had previously nearly eliminated the pathogen domestically. These places are now struggling to find a path to re-open as their vaccination drives lag major Western economies.

    The quarantine-free air travel arrangement was initially set to start last November but was first delayed by rising cases in Hong Kong.

    Under the agreement, if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local cases is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong, the bubble will be suspended for two weeks. Currently, that number is hovering around 4.7.

    Travelers with bookings on designated flights during the period have been advised to contact their airlines and adjust their itineraries.

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