SINGAPORE: Singapore is studying a proposal from Hong Kong to reopen borders safely, said Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Mar 29) after a Hong Kong official said it has resumed discussions on a travel bubble with Singapore.
“We are very happy that Hong Kong has in recent weeks kept the pandemic under good control. This is a very positive development,” Mr Ong said in a statement.
“We have received a proposal from Hong Kong to reopen borders safely. We are studying it and will be responding to Hong Kong shortly.”
There are two conditions for the resumption of the travel bubble with Singapore, Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau told reporters earlier on Monday.
These include a COVID-19 test before departure and after arrival.
“As Professor Chan said, there is now a vaccination programme, and we have enough vaccines for the whole population,” he said, referring to Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan.
“So, under the travel bubble arrangement, if Hong Kong people are to travel, and if we are to start any travel bubble arrangements with other places, then vaccination will be a requirement.
“This is for our own protection. I believe that will be the trend around the world in the long run.”
Singapore and Hong Kong were scheduled to launch an air travel bubble in November last year but it was deferred after Hong Kong saw a surge in COVID-19 cases.
On Nov 21, a day before flights were to begin, it was announced that the launch of the travel bubble has been deferred to early December.
It was later pushed back to 2021, with the exact starting date yet to be determined.
READ: Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble can be launched 'when conditions are right': Ong Ye Kung
Under that travel bubble arrangement, travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will be subject to COVID-19 tests in lieu of quarantine or stay-home notice.
There were also no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship.
Mr Yau noted that Hong Kong's average seven-day figure of COVID-19 cases has fallen since early March to less than five.
That was the "trigger point" for Hong Kong to resume discussions with Singapore, he said, adding that the city is also exploring travel bubble arrangements with more than 10 other countries and territories.
"We've written to some of the countries that are doing better, such as Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand – their epidemic has eased substantially, so we will resume the discussion with them, but of course, it depends on the actual epidemic situation at the time," said Mr Yau.
Hong Kong authorities also announced on Monday that the city will ease some of its coronavirus restrictions as local infection numbers decrease significantly, following an outbreak earlier this month that led to a spike in cases and forced thousands into quarantine.
Quarantine for arrivals from countries considered low to medium risk – such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand – will also be reduced from 21 days to 14 days.