Singapore and Hong Kong to launch “travel bubble” flights on November 22

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A Boeing 777-312 (ER) passenger plane belonging to Singapore Airlines lands at Hong Kong International Airport August 01, 2018 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.S3studio | Getty Images News | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Non-quarantine pleasure travel between Hong Kong and Singapore will resume on November 22, according to details of a bilateral bubble announced on Wednesday.Under the new guidelines, passengers will be allowed to travel between the two locations without needing to self-isolate on arrival. Instead, they will need to take a Covid-19 test and provide a negative result within 72 hours of departure. All travelers arriving in Hong Kong will also be required to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival.

There will be no restriction on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship. However, travelers must not have any travel history to a location outside of Hong Kong or Singapore within 14 days of departure.

Arrivals will be subject to local Covid-19 restrictions in the respective markets, such as downloading a contact tracing app and wearing masks. All travelers who contract the virus will have to pay their own medical costs.

Flights will initially be limited to one per day in each city with a limit of 200 travelers on each flight. If the coronavirus situation does not deteriorate in either city, flights are expected to increase from December 7 to two per day in each city.

The flights designated for air bubbles will only carry passengers traveling between Hong Kong and Singapore, and will not include those passing through either city, according to the announcement.

Hong Kong and Singapore first announced plans for a bilateral travel bubble in mid-October, as the two cities seek to repair some of the damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic on their tourism and aviation industries hard hit.

Without domestic air transport markets, the two Asian business poles are heavily dependent on international travel. Last year, Hong Kong recorded more than 453,000 visitor arrivals from Singapore, while Singapore welcomed 489,000 visitors from Hong Kong, according to official statistics from the respective cities.

Although we are starting small, this is an important step forward. I am confident that Singapore and Hong Kong will cooperate fully to make this program work.

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Singapore Minister of Transport

The deal will fail to bring flights between the two sites back to their pre-pandemic average of 18 a day. Yet Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung hailed the deal as “the first of its kind” and said it could help restore international travel.

“The Singapore-Hong Kong air transport bubble allows us to achieve two goals at the same time – to open our borders in a controlled manner, while maintaining security in our societies,” he said.

“Although we are starting small, this is an important step forward. I have no doubt that Singapore and Hong Kong will cooperate fully to make this program work. It will be a useful reference for other countries and regions that have controlled the epidemic, and are considering opening their borders, ”he added.

Singapore and Hong Kong were early proponents of introducing travel agreements with other countries considered low risk.

Singapore, for its part, has unilaterally opened its borders to tourists from countries such as Australia, Brunei, mainland China, Vietnam and New Zealand. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is said to be in talks with 10 countries, including Japan and Thailand, on similar deals.

As of November 10, Singapore had 58,073 total confirmed coronavirus cases and 28 deaths. Hong Kong had a total of 5,390 confirmed cases and 108 deaths.

– CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.

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