After multiple delays, Hong Kong and Singapore announced on Aug 19, 2021, that they have decided to scrap the air travel bubble plan between the two cities. The plan was finally decommissioned due to the different anti-epidemic strategies employed by their respective governments.
What is an “air travel bubble”?
A travel bubble (also known as a travel corridor or Corona corridor) is a plan borne from a partnership between two or more countries to loosen border restrictions between all parties involved.
Partnering countries are to open their borders and allow vaccinated travellers to travel between the two locations without having to undergo mandated quarantine.
The Singapore-Hong Kong Travel Bubble
Back in 2020, Singapore and Hong Kong planned to instate quarantine-free travel between the two cities, replacing mandated self-isolation with COVID testing.
The air travel plan was set to launch back in November 2020, but experienced numerous delays. The first was due to a jump in cases in Hong Kong, leading to the plan getting pushed to a May 2021 launch.
The plan was then moved to July, this time due to a spike in cases in Singapore. Further discussions finally led to the plan getting scrapped in August 2021.
“Both sides are focused on keeping our populations safe and minimising the risk of imported cases,” said Singaporean Transport Minister S. Iswaran in an August 19 press release.
“But our strategies differ, with Singapore now taking steps to becoming a COVID-resilient nation. Against this backdrop, my Hong Kong counterpart, Secretary Edward Yau, and I have discussed and concluded that we will not be able to launch or sustain the air travel bubble in its present form.”
A month prior to the announcement, Hong Kong legislators urged their government to scrap the plan due to Singapore moving away from a zero-infection strategy, reasoning that zero Coronavirus cases should be necessary before the territory sets to reopen borders with the mainland.
The Present Form of Travel Between Singapore and Hong Kong
Although the possibility of quarantine-free travel between the two territories seems to be dim for the moment, Hong Kong and Singapore remained committed to facilitating connectivity between the cities.
As reassured by Mr. Iswaran, both parties agreed to maintain dialogue given that they are major aviation hubs and financial centres, with the possibility of revisiting discussions once coronavirus cases are controlled.
The two cities are currently handling their border control measures differently, either involving considerations to revitalise tourism and reduce local caseloads.
Visitors from Hong Kong and Macau can rest easy. They may still enter Singapore with a single Covid-19 swab test upon arrival and will be allowed to proceed if they test negative.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has tightened its border policies, requiring travellers from different countries including Singapore to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
The differing anti-epidemic strategies have caused quite a stir, especially from vaccinated travellers from Singapore heading to Hong Kong, while Singaporeans in the mainland can be relieved at the news that they won’t be subject to quarantine upon their return home.
Both cities reassured that while the travel bubble plan currently has no sign of being resuscitated, discussion of other methods isn’t out of the question and that they are open to developing a new strategy to facilitate travellers when the situation allows.
Visiting Singapore from Hong Kong
1. Short-Term Visitors
Travellers that want to enter the country will do so via a Safe Travel Lane arrangement, and the entry requirements and health controls of each Safe Travel Lane may differ depending on the traveller’s profile and travel history.
To apply for an air travel pass, you may get the information on Singapore’s dedicated Safe Travel site here.
2. Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents
Singapore Citizens (SC) and Permanent Residents (PR) can return from any overseas country without entry approval. Depending on the traveller’s travel history, the Ministry of Health will determine the category of travel health measures that apply before their arrival in the country.
Details related to the entry requirements and Category of travel health measures is available in the “Returning SC/PR Lane Overview”.
3. Long-Term Pass Holders and SC/PR Immediate Relatives
To enter Singapore, Long Term Pass holders and the immediate relatives of Singapore citizens/permanent residents must apply for entry approval. Depending on the traveller’s travel history, the Ministry of Health will determine the category of travel health measures that apply before their arrival in the country.
More details can be found on the dedicated Safe Travel site here.
Visiting Hong Kong from Singapore
The prevailing border measures and health requirements of Hong Kong will apply to all travellers heading to the country. Refer to Hong Kong’s dedicated website here for the latest information.
Other Countries with an Air Travel Bubble with Singapore
|Green Lane Arrangement||Brunei Darussalam, Mainland China*
*Applies only to travellers from Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Tianjin, Zhejiang
|Business and official travellers|
|Vaccinated travellers entering Singapore from countries do not need to quarantine||Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.||All travellers|
|Short-term travellers from these countries are exempt from quarantine||Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, and Taiwan.||Travellers who test negative for COVID-19 upon arrival|
|Travel bubble negotiations underway||Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand, Australia||All travellers|
Know more about Singapore & Australia travel bubbles here.
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