Sunday, August 1

Singapore & Hong Kong Travel Bubble Postponed – One Mile at a Time

A new travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong was supposed to kick off as of November 22 (tomorrow), but it has been postponed just hours before launch.

Why the travel bubble has been delayed

One condition of this new travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong was that it could be suspended in the event that either destination sees an increase in untraced coronavirus cases. There was always the risk that this could eventually be called off, though most people probably didn’t expect that this would happen with launch.

Singapore’s Minister for Transport has today announced that the launch of the travel bubble will be deferred by at least two weeks. This decision came after Hong Kong saw an increase in new coronavirus cases in recent days — Hong Kong reported 43 new cases today, and 26 new cases yesterday, which is an increase over the mostly single digit case numbers we saw in days prior to that.

The new launch date is still to be determined based on how the situation evolves, as no final decision has been made. Travelers can still continue on their journeys, though they’d have to do so under the old rules, which would require a seven day quarantine.

The announcement of the travel bubble being deferred came just shortly after Singapore announced that an additional coronavirus test would be required upon arrival in Singapore, meaning travelers would have to take up to four coronavirus tests to travel as part of this arrangement.

The travel bubble was called off one day before launch

How the travel bubble was supposed to work

For some basic context, both Singapore and Hong Kong have done a great job with keeping coronavirus case numbers low. Both places have mostly kept their borders closed to visitors. With the travel bubble concept, travelers could go between the two places without the typical quarantine.

However, there are a lot of restrictions associated with it:

  • Travelers would need to fly on special travel bubble flights, so that they wouldn’t mix with transit passengers; there were a maximum of 200 daily travelers as part of the arrangement
  • There would be up to four coronavirus tests required (and that’s also costly) to take part in this, including testing before and after travel on both ends

There’s no denying that the focus of this travel bubble was minimizing risk rather than making travel easy and accessible, and that’s totally fair. But this also shows you that even with so many precautions, this concept was at risk even before launch. The risks currently associated with international travel don’t just apply to places where coronavirus isn’t well managed.

I’ll be curious to see if the new travel bubble actually launches in a couple of weeks, or if this concept just doesn’t make it.

The travel bubble was supposed to be limited to 200 people per day

Bottom line

Singapore and Hong Kong were supposed to launch a travel bubble concept as of tomorrow, allowing travelers to skip quarantine while taking lots of tests. This concept was reliant on there not even being a minimal spike in cases, and unfortunately that’s something that happened right before launch.

Presumably many people had already paid for coronavirus tests for their departures tomorrow, so they’re out of pocket for something. Hopefully they can at least cancel hotels and activities without penalties.

I’ll be curious to see if this concept actually happens in a couple of weeks, or if this will be delayed a lot longer than that.

Are you surprised to see this travel bubble postponed before it even launches?

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