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Singapore has not given up the air travel bubble with Hong Kong, minister says

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SINGAPORE – Singapore has not given up forming a bilateral “air travel bubble” with Hong Kong that would allow travelers to skip the quarantine, the Southeast Asian country’s transport minister Ong Ye Kung told CNBC.

The deal was supposed to start last November but was postponed after Hong Kong reported a resurgence in new Covid-19 cases. A new start date has not been set, but Ong said authorities on both sides had been in contact.

“As you know, the agreement has been signed and concluded. We are making some optimizations, some proposals to tighten it,” the minister told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.

“But I think the most important consideration now is that this is just after the Chinese New Year and both sides are cautious. We want to see if the Chinese New Year has any impact on community transmission,” he added.

The New Year celebrations took place last month. Celebrations usually include gatherings and visits to the homes of family and friends – events that have been scaled back in many countries this year due to the pandemic.

Ong said there appears to be no evidence of increased transmission of Covid after the celebrations.

In Singapore, the daily incidence remained low and there were no infections in the community most days, he said. As of Wednesday, the country has reported more than 60,000 confirmed cases and 29 deaths since the outbreak began, health ministry data showed.

In Hong Kong, the number of new cases every day has also fallen from a recent high in January. As of Wednesday, the city has reported more than 11,000 confirmed and probable Covid cases and 203 deaths, official data showed.

Both Singapore and Hong Kong are major Asian business centers with no domestic air travel markets. Your tourism and aviation industries, which are heavily reliant on international travel, have been hard hit by the pandemic.

Pandemic control is still key to reopening

In addition to Hong Kong, Singapore is keen to make “travel bubble” deals with other places, said Ong, who predicts some “recovery” in aviation this year.

“What’s in our favor is vaccination. What is not in our favor is mutations and variants that are more transmissible and may not respond to vaccination. So you have these opposing forces, and I think that’s the nature of this Fight keeps throwing you curveballs, “said the minister.

“Still, I think vaccination is a big game changer and we hope we can recover sometime this year. And when we look at recovery, I think the air travel bubble is an important plank for us on the we have to work, “he added.

As a place, a territory, or a country, their track record of infection control continues to be the most important finding we need to look at. And if they are successful, we should keep opening up to them and forming air travel bubbles with them.

Ong Ye Kung |

Singapore’s Minister of Transport

Immunization rates won’t be the only consideration for Singapore as it opens its borders, Ong said. He added that countries and territories’ track record in fighting pandemics is a more important factor.

The minister pointed out that even before vaccinations began, Singapore was able to open up to some places that were considered “safe”.

Over the past year, Singapore has allowed visitors from various countries – including Australia, New Zealand, mainland China and Taiwan – to skip the quarantine if they meet certain requirements, such as: B. a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival.

According to Ong, around 1,000 such travelers travel to Singapore every day without quarantine and have not yet led to higher Covid transmission rates in the country.

“We still have to take a bilateral country-to-country approach,” he said.

“As a place, as a territory, or as a country, their track record of infection control continues to be the most important outcome to look at. And if they are successful, we should keep opening up to them and creating air travel bubbles with them.”

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Katherine Clark