A long-awaited travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will have to wait considerably longer after both countries announced Tuesday that discussions would not resume until late August.
Having already been postponed twice – first in November 2020 then again in May 2021 – recent talks have been put on hold again due to increasing COVID-19 case numbers in Singapore that have seen the sovereign state this week return to phase two “heightened alert” restrictions.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong government told the South China Morning Post Tuesday that, “The condition for launching the air travel bubble cannot be met for the time being.
“Both sides agreed that a review of the way forward can be conducted in late August, taking into account the effectiveness of the enhanced infection control measures implemented by Singapore and the global situation at that time.”
Singapore’s Transport Ministry added, “Both parties will remain in close contact and monitor the public health situation in both places before taking stock in late August on the [air travel bubble].”
Singapore reported 182 new community cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, most linked to a local fishery port.
The spike comes two weeks after Hong Kong expressed hesitation over Singapore’s plan to start transitioning to a new normal by opening its borders to tourists by September.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at the time that Singapore remains the SAR’s “priority candidate” with which to resume international travel but added, “We need to understand more about that new strategy and whether it will have any impact on the arrangements that we have devised.”
Hong Kong and Singapore had originally planned to launch a travel bubble on 22 November 2020, with one charter flight carrying a maximum of 200 passengers to depart each day initially, rising to two flights per day from 7 December. The plan was postponed due to rising COVID-19 case numbers in Hong Kong, then again in May 2021 as cases rose in Singapore.