Historic Singapore-Hong Kong “Travel Bubble” Pops 24 Hours Before Launch

To keep tourism afloat during the pandemic, countries (and airlines) have had to be extremely creative. We’ve seen several countries pitch the idea of a “travel bubble” but implementation has not come to fruition.

Last week, Singapore and Cathay Pacific announced their intention for a “travel bubble” given their respective low COVID-19 cases but the plans were scrapped 24 hours before launch and have been delayed by two weeks.

THE WORLDS FIRST “TRAVEL BUBBLE

Tourism is a considerable percentage of many country’s yearly GDP, so to lose it would be devastating. Understanding this, governments around the world have pitched the idea of “travel bubbles” in order to prevent total collapse. So what is a travel bubble?

Travel bubbles are essentially a partnership between countries that have had great success in containing and combating the COVID-19 pandemic within their border. In short…”you did well, we did well. Let’s reopen up our borders to each other and allow people to travel without having the requirement of quarantine on-arrival.”

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen:

  • Australia suggest a bubble with Singapore, South Korea, and Japan
  • Thailand suggest a bubble with China and;
  • The U.S. suggest a bubble with the U.K (specifically between New York And London)*

*Note: Both the US and UK have some of the highest rates in the world right now. In fact, the UK just banned leisure travel and went into full lockdown, so I suspect this will not happen any time soon.

Last week, Singapore and Hong Kong announced their intention for a “travel bubble” given their respective low COVID-19 cases with the inaugural flights taking place on 22 November.

The flight schedule was:

RouteFlight #
Singapore – Hong Kong (Singapore Airlines)SQ890
Hong Kong – Singapore (Singapore Airlines)SQ891
RouteFlight #
Hong Kong – Singapore (Cathay Pacific)CX759
Singapore – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific)CX734

SO WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE FLIGHT?

To be eligible for the Air Travel Bubble, you must:

  • Have no travel history to anywhere other than Hong Kong or Singapore in the last 14 days prior to departure
  • Present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result (test taken within 72 hours before departure)
  • Have a booking on a flight designated specifically for the Air Travel Bubble
  • Have the right to enter both Hong Kong and Singapore (e.g. visas or residency permits) and normal visa-free entry to Hong Kong and Singapore is also permitted

Flights would be initially limited to one per day into each city with a limit of 200 travelers on each flight. If COVID-19 infections stay the same (or decrease) in either city, the frequency of flights was expected to increase starting 7 December with two flights per day into each city.

COULD THE BUBBLE BURST? THE BUBBLE POPPED!

Unfortunately, the worlds first “travel bubble” has popped, plans were scrapped 24 hours before launch, and have been delayed by two weeks.

Singapore and Hong Kong have done a phenomenal job containing and combating the COVID-19 pandemic within their border. For example, last week everything appeared well…

Singapore and Hong Kong’s coronavirus cases were extremely low and averaging single digits in recent days – mostly from returning residents.

However, both airlines said, if Covid-19 cases rose, the travel bubble will be “suspended for two weeks.”

So what happened? Health officials in Hong Kong confirmed a significant increase of cases, where 26 confirmed (and 40 preliminary cases) were identified.

Interestingly, Singapore is not experiencing the same thing so I suspect this decision was largely one direction.

In fact, this morning Singapore’s Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung revealed that the travel bubble would be put on ice for at least two weeks “given the evolving COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong.”

Passengers will still be able to fly between the two cities but will be subjected to quarantine restrictions.

FINAL STAMP

Unfortunately, everyone will have to wait at least two weeks before we see a historic “travel bubble” between Singapore and Hong Kong.

Although the US media doesn’t cover it, many countries around the world have returned to normal life.

For example, Singapore has already opened its borders to tourists from Australia, Brunei, mainland China, Vietnam and New Zealand. Additionally, Hong Kong is collaborating with up to 10 countries at the moment to establish a travel bubble including Japan and Thailand.

For context, during the same time period in the US, we’ve managed to go from this…

…to this…

Are you surprised that other countries have returned to pre-pandemic activities (aka normal life)? What do you think about the idea of a travel bubble?

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