In this Dec 13, 2018 photo, travelers walk past stores at Terminal 3 of Changi Airport in Singapore. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)
HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s air travel bubble with Singapore has been delayed again until further notice, as Singapore reported 38 locally transmitted cases on Sunday, the highest daily count in eight months, indicating active transmission chains in the community.
The quarantine-free travel was originally scheduled to take off on May 26, after being postponed for half a year due to Hong Kong’s fourth wave of infections. Singapore Minister for Transport S Iswaran said that as Singapore is unable to meet the criteria to start the travel bubble, both sides have agreed to defer the launch.
A Hong Kong government spokesman said in a statement that both sides will closely monitor the situation and maintain exchanges, and a further announcement will be made on or before June 13
A Hong Kong government spokesman said in a statement that both sides will closely monitor the situation and maintain exchanges, and a further announcement will be made on or before June 13.
In an attempt to rein in growing infections, Singapore rolled out a series of social distancing measures that mostly last until June 13, including school shutdowns, a ban on in-house dining and a cap at two on public gatherings.
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The largest 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.
Of the 17 unlinked cases identified on Sunday, six patients preliminarily tested positive for the more aggressive and transmissible coronavirus strain known as B.1.617, according to Ministry of Health data. Among them, two had already gotten their first vaccine dose.
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 and Hong Kong, the bubble will be suspended for two weeks. Currently, that number is hovering around 4.7.
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Hong Kong has seen its daily cases drop to low single digits while the government has relaxed some coronavirus rules for vaccinated people in a move to incentivize residents to get inoculated.
The travel bubble was due to start with one flight a day into each city, with up to 200 travelers on each flight. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines were due to be the carriers offering the initial flights.
Travelers with bookings on designated flights during the period have been advised to contact their airlines and adjust their itineraries.
With Agencies inputs