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Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble to launch in May

Changi Airport in busier times.

A quarantine-free travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong is finally happening.

The much anticipated travel corridor linking the two cities which was originally due to go ahead last November, will finally be opening on May 26, officials have revealed.

Those travelling from Hong Kong must have been vaccinated, although there are exemptions for children aged under 16 and those who are unable to receive a vaccine for medical reasons. Travellers who have been in Hong Kong for less than 90 days before departing for Singapore will also be exempt, along with those using a non-Hong Kong travel document for departure.

Travellers from Singapore to Hong Kong do not need to have been vaccinated. According to Singapore transport minister Ong Ye Kung, this is because the original plan was for people to be able to travel quarantine-free “with tests but no need for vaccination”. Ong said he believed Hong Kong’s vaccination requirement may be due to the government wanting an extra incentive for Hong Kongers to have the vaccine. Around 11% of Hong Kongers have so far been vaccinated, compared to 15% in Singapore. Hong Kong is using Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines while Singapore has been using Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs.

The bubble will cautiously float with just one flight a day from each city, with each flight capped at 200 passengers. The flights will be open to anyone of any nationality who has been in either city for 14 consecutive days before departure. This does not include time spent in quarantine or on a Stay Home Notice.

‘Flag carrier’ airlines Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific will be the carriers initially taking part in the bubble; if you want to book, look out for flight numbers SQ882 and CX734 heading from Singapore to Hong Kong and SQ883 and CX759 for the Hong Kong to Singapore route.

Travellers using the bubble arrangement must also take pre-departure and arrival swab tests but there will be no restrictions on reason for travel. However, if the seven-day moving average of unlinked community cases increases to more than five in either city, the bubble will be suspended. This excludes numbers of cases in workers' dormitories in Singapore which were responsible for around 90% of Singapore’s coronavirus cases in 2020.

“The Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong has improved, with very few local unlinked Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks,” said Ong. “Community cases in Singapore have remained very low throughout the time. The risk profiles in both cities are therefore now similar.”

Infection levels will be closely monitored between now and May 26 and the launch will proceed if the situation remains “steady and under control” in both cities.

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