As Hong Kong eases out of its fourth Covid wave, the authorities have proposed that passengers should be vaccinated to take the Singapore-Hong Kong bubble flights, as talks of the quarantine-free travel arrangements are now back on the table.
Hong Kong secretary for commerce and economic development Edward Yau on 29 March said that Hong Kong residents who wish to enter the travel bubble arrangements will have to first receive two complete vaccine doses and wait at least 14 days after the
second jab prior to going on these flights.
"We have put forward the proposal to the Singapore Government and we're waiting for a response, but I think it's important that we first get things right on our side — that is, before people here in Hong Kong travel, they must first be vaccinated. This
is for their own protection...that will be the trend around the world in the long run," he said.
Yau added that Hong Kong's seven-day moving average for unknown infections has gone under five — which he noted is one of the clauses for both countries to resume discussions.
Singapore's minister for transport Ong Ye Kung has also responded and said that the country is studying the proposal to reopen borders safely, reported The Straits Times.
The on-off-on again Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) has been in limbo
ever since its original 22 November launch. Due to escalating cases in Hong Kong, both countries announced in December a deferment of the quarantine-free ATB to beyond 2020.
While no exact timeline has been given for the bubble restart, Yau indicated that Hong Kong is in discussions with 16 jurisdictions on travel arrangements for locals who are vaccinated.
The Hong Kong government is also expected to announce the extension of the current 'Return2HK' programme – which allows local residents from mainland China to return home sans quarantine – to include more mainland provinces besides Macau and Guangdong, reported the South China Morning Post.
Similar plans are expected to fly home Hong Kongers stranded in Britain since December.
As well, arrivals from low-risk countries – namely Australia, New Zealand or Singapore – can now quarantine for 14 days at a designated hotel, rather than 21, before undergoing another seven days of self-quarantine at their own residence.
Meanwhile, the SCMP also reported that about 2,000 temporary jobs, including roles ranging from crowd management to administration, at the city's 29 vaccination centres will be opened up for workers in the embattled tourism sector.
According to Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection, 462,000 vaccine jabs have been given as of 28 March 2021.