Both governments may have expressed positive stances towards finalising negotiations for the on-off Singapore-Hong Kong bubble, but fresh Covid woes are threatening to burst the already delayed dream.
Following the discovery of two passengers who tested positive for the virus on flights with budget carrier Scoot earlier this month, Hong Kong authorities banned the airline's flights between 16-29 April. A similar ban for parent carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) ended 17 April.
For now, the travel bubble could happen sometime in mid-May, according to sources speaking to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). SIA and Cathay Pacific will also remain as the first two carriers to steer the bubble dream ahead, as previously planned.
However, that plan may be altered — since SIA announced on 15 April that both the carrier and Scoot would stop carrying transit passengers on the outbound Singapore-Hong Kong route "until further notice". SIA's move came into effect on 17 April, while Scoot's will start from 30 April.
"Services from Hong Kong to Singapore remain unaffected, and passengers originating from Hong Kong will be allowed to transfer through Singapore Changi Airport en-route to their final destinations," said SIA in response to a CNA query.
SIA will reach out to affected customers, who can opt to rebook or do a refund.
As well, for the quarantine-free bubble way to happen, all travellers will have to be vaccinated first — at least for Hong Kong's side, its leaders currently battling a slow vaccine roll out with only 648,900 (8.7%) people receiving their first dose and about 332,100 people getting their second dose as of 15 April, amounting to a total of 981,000 doses administered.
In comparison, as of 14 April, around 19.8% of Singapore's population have received their first dose, according to Bloomberg’s Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker.
To that end, secretary for the civil service, Patrick Nip announced on Twitter the same day that the vaccination programme will be expanded to cover people aged 16 to 29 and that community vaccination centres are expected to operate until the end of September.