Hong Kong, Singapore establish air 'travel bubble' to replace quarantine in 'world first'

Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific will operate alternate flights between the 2 cities

An inaugural "travel bubble" will be launched later this month between Hong Kong and Singapore to reestablish travel links amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Wednesday.

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The plan kicks off on Nov. 22, which would allow leisure travelers from the two cities to fly between each other without having to quarantine, which officials described as a "world first."

“This policy is not easy to come by,” Hong Kong Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah said during the announcement, according to the South China Morning Post. “Whether the bubble can work and sustain (itself) well will depend on cooperation from all sides, including the participation of residents and their efforts in maintaining social distancing.”

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Under the plan, tourists from either city must take nucleic acid tests before their flight, after arrival and before their return to prove they do not have COVID-19.

An inaugural "travel bubble" will be launched later this month between Hong Kong and Singapore to reestablish travel links amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced on Wednesday.  (iStock)

The plan will initially kick off with only one flight a day into each city, with a quota of 200 passengers per flight. Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific will operate alternate flights after the launch day.

The plan would then increase to two flights a day beginning Dec. 7.

Singapore Airlines said Wednesday it would not be using its largest aircraft for the flight relaunch, but that it hopes it would be a "very good pilot" for how to resume international travel.

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Earlier this week the airline reported its biggest-ever quarterly loss due to the ongoing impacts on air travel due to the pandemic, the Post reported.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
CPCAYCATHAY PACIFIC AIRWAYS LTD5+0.14+2.88%
SINGYSINGAPORE AIRL6.588+0.11+1.67%

Officials said the plan will be suspended for two weeks if either Hong Kong or Singapore reports a seven-day moving average of more than five untraceable coronavirus infections.

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“While we may be starting small, this is an important step forward," Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters. "It will be a useful reference for other countries and regions that have controlled the epidemic, and are contemplating opening their borders.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.