Singapore and Hong Kong have once again delayed the air travel bubble (ATB) between the two cities, following the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Singapore, said the Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Monday (17 May).
As of Monday noon, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has preliminarily confirmed an additional 28 cases of COVID-19 infection in Singapore, of which 21 are locally transmitted.
In a statement earlier today, MOT said that “in the light of the recent increase in unlinked community cases, Singapore is unable to meet the criteria to start the Singapore-Hong Kong ATB.”
Transport Minister S. Iswaran had a meeting with Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yaw earlier today, and both sides have agreed to defer the launch of the ATB to protect the health of travellers and the public, said the Ministry.
Newly appointed Transport Minister S. Iswaran took over the Ministry on Saturday, following the cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 23 April.
MOT added that both countries will continue monitoring the public health situation and review the new launch date of the ATB flights towards the end of Singapore’s Phase Two (heightened alert) of reopening.
“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 places. Singapore residents returning from Hong Kong will be subject to a 7-day Stay-Home Notice upon entry into Singapore,” it stated.
The ATB between the two cities was initially scheduled to start last November but was deferred after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong.
It was reported on 2 April that the Government of Hong Kong has barred Singapore Airlines (SIA) passenger flights to land in Hong Kong from 3 April to 16 April, after a passenger flying from Singapore to Hong Kong on 31 March was confirmed to have COVID-19.
Subsequently, on 14 April, Mr Ong noted that both countries were “finalising details” on the revised agreement to start the air travel bubble between the two cities, and hope to announce the plans “soon”.
His announcement was made a day after Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said that only those who have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus will be allowed to fly from Hong Kong to Singapore under the travel bubble.
Bloomberg reported on 22 April that both cities postponed a planned Thursday announcement on an air-travel bubble, of which the cancellation was said to be initiated by the Singapore side, according to people familiar with the matter.
The ATB then slated to launch on 26 May with “more stringent arrangements” in place, before being deferred again.