The air travel bubble arrangement between Singapore and Hong Kong — due to commence on 26 May — has been postponed indefinitely for a second time.
In a statement, Singapore’s transport ministry says the decision was made following the “evolving Covid-19 situation in Singapore”.
The city-state in recent days reported a surge in local coronavirus transmissions with unknown origins, culminating in 18 unlinked cases reported on 16 May.
Singapore and Hong Kong had previously said that the travel bubble would be suspended for at least 14 days if the seven-day moving average of unlinked local transmissions in Singapore or Hong Kong surpasses five.
“In light of the recent increase in unlinked community cases, Singapore is unable to meet the criteria to start the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble. both sides therefore agreed to defer the launch…to protect the health of travellers and the public in these two places,” the ministry adds.
Both Singapore and Hong Kong will “review the new launch date” before mid-June when tightened measures on socialising — imposed for a month until 13 June — will lift.
Both governments have also stressed that they “remain strongly committed” to launching the travel bubble, “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 delay is the latest setback to the quarantine-free travel arrangement. Both cities first targeted to launch the travel bubble in November last year, but plans were scuppered at the eleventh hour following a spike in cases in Hong Kong.
The second attempt at travel bubble arrangements between both cities was formally announced on 26 April, and featured stricter measures to safeguard public health. Both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific were to have operated flights under the arrangement, with frequencies gradually increased to twice-daily flights, with a capacity limit of 200 passengers per flight.