With community transmission on the rise again in Hong Kong, a highly anticipated travel bubble with the Lion City will be pushed back by two weeks.
Originally set to launch on November 22, the travel bubble delay is the latest setback for the travel industry. Many had their eyes on the travel bubble flights to showcase how international travel can be done safely by substituting quarantine periods with stringent testing regimes.
Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development, said that the new launch date will be reviewed again in early December, according to Reuters.
Under the travel bubble arrangement, eligible travellers are not required to quarantine in both Hong Kong and Singapore. In lieu, they would take Covid-19 tests prior to departure and upon arrival at their destination. Flag carriers Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines would operate designated travel bubble flights, initially with a quota of 200 travellers each way.
“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips,” said Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s minister for transport, in a social media post. “This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs. But we will press on and look forward to when we can safely launch the air travel bubble.”
The travel bubble flights would have been a much-needed boost to the embattled Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, both of which have seen a 99 per cent plunge in passenger traffic year-on-year. The carriers do not operate domestic routes, which have helped competitors offset the decline caused by international travel restrictions.
Prior to the government’s announcement, demand for the travel bubble was overwhelming with most flights sold out, according to South China Morning Post, citing Cathay Pacific’s chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam.