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Hong Kong wants only vaccinated travellers for Singapore bubble

·2-min read
Hong Kong international airport, one of the world's largest passenger terminal quiet, following the announcement of travel restrictions worldwide. HK
Hong Kong international airport, one of the world's largest passenger terminal quiet, following the announcement of travel restrictions worldwide. HK

By Felix Tam and Chloe Lo

(Bloomberg) — As part of a push to get more of its population vaccinated, Hong Kong is planning to only allow those who’ve had Covid-19 shots to fly from the city to Singapore once both governments finalise a travel bubble.

“The basis for discussion with Singapore is that people leaving Hong Kong and entering Singapore need to be vaccinated,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing late Monday, when outlining a plan to give people more leeway with social-distancing rules if they get inoculated. “We want to provide incentives to encourage Hong Kong citizens to get vaccinated,” she said.

Originally slated to start in November, the travel bubble between the two financial hubs was shelved days before it was due to start, after a spike in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong. It was postponed again in December and has since been on hold as cases in Hong Kong flared, including an outbreak last month that was quelled with one of the world’s strictest quarantine regimes.Hong Kong’s outbreak is now “obviously contained,” Lam said Monday, with confirmed daily cases lingering in the low double-digits or fewer in recent weeks. The city has reported 11,594 Covid-19 cases in total and 207 deaths.

Bookings for vaccinations at Hong Kong government centres doubled from the previous 24 hours as Lam dangled the prospect of benefits for those who got inoculated, such as being able to dine with more people at restaurants and visit bars.

Singapore also has the coronavirus under control and has relaxed curbs, but progress on resurrecting the travel bubble with Hong Kong is slow as both governments, while desperate to open their borders, take a cautious approach.

Still, Singapore isn’t planning to require all travelers from Hong Kong to be vaccinated, Lam said Tuesday. Singapore’s Ministry of Transport didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The start of designated travel bubble flights wouldn’t plug the massive losses of Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Singapore Airlines Ltd., but it would at least be a positive development. Without domestic markets to fall back on, both airlines have been severely hurt by international travel drying up during the pandemic.

When the proposed travel bubble was first announced in November, online searches for flights from Hong Kong to Singapore surged 300% within hours, according to Trip.com. It will also be a boon to hotels in both cities, where occupancy rates have slumped as borders stayed closed.

“I expect an early indication of agreement between the two sides so that we can tell the people of Hong Kong that it’s time to travel to Singapore again,” Lam said.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.