Singapore-HK bubble intact despite rise in cases

Singapore-HK bubble intact despite rise in cases


Singapore-HK bubble intact despite rise in cases

But passengers from Hong Kong must now take Covid test on arrival as well

Children and adults wearing face masks enjoy an outing at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort on Friday. (Reuters Photo)
Children and adults wearing face masks enjoy an outing at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort on Friday. (Reuters Photo)

SINGAPORE: Singapore says an air travel bubble with Hong Kong will proceed as planned on Sunday, but arriving passengers from Hong Kong must now take a Covid-19 test as cases in the Chinese territory have been increasing.

Hong Kong has a “comprehensive public health surveillance system” and the overall incidence rate is still low, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a statement on Saturday.

The travel bubble, under which no quarantine is required if a passenger tests negative, is the first in the world that is open to all residents of two countries and not just selected travellers. As such, it is being closely watched by other jurisdictions including Thailand.

“The additional requirement is a precautionary measure given the rise of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong over the past few days,” the CAAS said. “More cases are expected in Hong Kong over the next few days due to the emergence of new clusters. The Singapore and Hong Kong health authorities are in close contact and monitoring the situation.”

Travellers departing Hong Kong for Singapore are already required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test and must have a negative result. 

The air travel bubble will be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked virus cases exceeds five per day. The CAAS said the Hong Kong figure currently stood at 2.14 and would be exceeded if there are over 22 unlinked cases over the next three days. If it is breached, a two-day notice period will be triggered followed by a suspension of the travel bubble.

“Prevailing border measures — a 7-day Stay-Home Notice in the case of travellers from Hong Kong — will then apply upon entry into Singapore,” the CAAS said.

Hong Kong added 45 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily toll in three months, after authorities imposed new social restrictions as they braced for an expected new wave.

Hong Kong reported 26 new infections on Friday, 21 of which were locally transmitted, with nine from an untraceable source. The government has also detected over 40 preliminary cases awaiting confirmation, a sign that Friday’s jump was not an anomaly.

The surge comes as other parts of Asia, including Japan and South Korea, also see alarming flareups as colder weather sets in.

“Hong Kong’s epidemic has shown rapid deterioration and experts have said the fourth wave is inevitable,” Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said in a briefing on Friday. “We have done a series of measures to strengthen control, but we still see the situation turning bad.”

The city’s government will suspend classes for primary school levels 1 to 3 from Monday for two weeks, after shutting kindergartens and nurseries a week ago due to outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection, and the risks of coronavirus resurgence. No students or school staff have tested positive for Covid-19 yet, said officials.

On Saturday, the government also announced new social-distancing measures that would ban live performances in catered premises such as clubs, pubs and nightclubs, and shut all party rooms. The rules take effect at midnight on Sunday.

Hong Kong will now make mass testing mandatory among certain groups including symptomatic people, elderly care-home staff and taxi drivers. It’s also considering measures such as lowering the number of people allowed to gather at local hotels during “staycation” trips. Chan urged all residents to stop “unnecessary” gatherings and wear masks at all times.

The government is hoping the flareup can be contained before reaching the level of a July outbreak that was Hong Kong’s worst ever. Then, restrictions like a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and the closing of restaurants between 6pm and 5am dealt a significant blow to the financial centre’s economy

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