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Singapore, Hong Kong to defer air travel bubble launch

Singapore, Hong Kong to defer air travel bubble launch

View of Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines aircraft. (Photo: AP/SIA)

SINGAPORE: Singapore and Hong Kong will defer the launch of an air travel bubble to next year amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Chinese city, said Singapore's aviation authority. 

The travel bubble was originally scheduled to start on Nov 22, but both cities said the day before flights were to begin that the launch would be delayed by two weeks to early December.

On Tuesday (Dec 1), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said the travel bubble will be deferred "beyond December" and the exact start date will be reviewed late this month. 

Singapore and Hong Kong decided on the deferment after further reviewing the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong, where local unlinked cases are still high, CAAS said. 

READ: Hong Kong, Singapore bubble delay highlights hurdles to travel recovery

Under the travel bubble, travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will be subject to COVID-19 tests, in lieu of quarantine or stay-home notice. 

There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship.

CASS said passengers should contact their airlines regarding their travel plans. 

"The Singapore and Hong Kong authorities have been in close discussion and will update when there are further developments," CAAS added.

A Hong Kong government spokesperson said in a separate statement that the decision to defer the travel bubble was made “in view of the severity of the epidemic situation in Hong Kong with the number of local cases of unknown sources increasing rapidly”.

READ: SIA, Cathay customers who no longer wish to fly after Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble deferment can request full refunds

Hong Kong on Monday tightened restrictions aimed at containing a rise in COVID-19 cases, limiting gatherings to no more than two people, closing karaoke lounges and games centres and telling most civil servants to work from home.

The measures come in addition to restrictions that will see all schools close for the rest of the year from Wednesday.

"It will be very critical in the coming two weeks," said Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. 

On Monday, Hong Kong reported 76 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total in the city of 7.4 million to more than 6,300 since the epidemic started, with 109 deaths.

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Source: CNA/agencies/zl(cy)