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Spike in cases delays Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble | World



Spike in cases delays Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble

FILE – In this Oct. 9, 2020, file photo, people wearing masks to protect against the coronavirus, walk down a street in Hong Kong. Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism for both cities, amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong. The air travel bubble, originally slated to begin Sunday, will be delayed by at least two weeks, Hong Kong’s minister of commerce and economic development, Edward Yau, said at a news conference on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.




HONG KONG (AP) — Singapore and Hong Kong on Saturday postponed the start of an air travel bubble meant to boost tourism for both cities, citing a spike in infections in the Chinese territory as a “sober reminder” of risks to public health.

The travel bubble, originally slated to begin Sunday, will be delayed by at least two weeks, Hong Kong’s minister of commerce and economic development, Edward Yau, said at a news conference.

The arrangement is meant to allow travelers between the two cities to enter without quarantine as long as they complete coronavirus tests before and after arriving at their destinations, and fly on designated flights.

Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, including 13 untraceable local infections.

“For any scheme to be successful, they must fulfill the condition of securing public health, and also make sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” Yau said. “In light of the situation in Hong Kong, I think it’s the responsible way to put this back for a while, and then sort of relaunch it at a suitable juncture.”

Under the initial agreement, the travel bubble was to be suspended if the number of untraceable local infections in either Singapore or Hong Kong exceeded five on a seven-day moving average. The current average in Hong Kong is nearly four, prompting Yau and Singapore’s transport minister, Ong Ye Kung, to postpone the inaugural flight.

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Hotel quarantine staff could ‘live in a bubble’ under new scheme

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A rebooted hotel quarantine scheme in Victoria could include staff who stay on site to reduce the risk of infection in the community, Premier Daniel Andrews has flagged.

Questions remain about how the new version of the program will be managed when international flights return to the state in just two weeks’ time.

South Australia’s coronavirus outbreak, also linked to hotel quarantine, has triggered calls over whether states should isolate travellers in the regions or other low-density areas to reduce the risk of larger super-spreading events.

Mr Andrews said it was possible some employees could be asked to “live in a bubble” while working in risk points for infection.

“I think living on site is not just a function of being out in the suburbs or in regional Victoria,” he said.

“You might find that’s a feature of the reset system.

“Not necessarily every member of staff, but some. Particularly those that are in the highest risk group if you like, those who have got the most frequent contact.”

Mr Andrews said the program would start at 160 people a day and grow over time.

“We are very confident that we can have an exclusive workforce,” he said.

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Hong Kong, Singapore bubble delay highlights hurdles to travel recovery

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A delay to Asia’s first travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore has hit the shares of their flag carriers and highlighted the challenges facing the global travel industry as it tries to rebound from the pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Cathay Pacific employees, wearing masks against COVID-19, are seen behind counters with glass dividers at Hong Kong International Airport, China October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik

The arrangement was postponed on Saturday, one day before it was due to launch, after Hong Kong reported a jump in coronavirus cases. Authorities and aviation experts have said the bubble would provide a blueprint for quarantine-free travel before a vaccine is widely available.

“There is no doubt that there are many challenges around it,” said Singapore hotelier Marcus Hanna, who had taken bookings from Hong Kong tourists and hopes for similar arrangements with major markets like mainland China and Australia early next year.

“Let’s hope that things improve in Hong Kong … many countries would have been looking to see how it goes,” said Hanna, general manager of Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford.

Shares of Cathay Pacific fell as much as 6.6% in early Asian trade on Monday, their biggest intraday fall since Aug. 10, before paring some losses to trade 5% lower. Singapore Airlines shares traded 1% lower in a positive local market.

The two airlines have been harder hit by the pandemic than their global peers as they do not have domestic routes to fall back on.

The bubble would have only brought incremental traffic into both cities. But Jefferies analyst Andrew Lee, who covers Cathay Pacific, said for Hong Kong it could serve as a template that could be extended to 10 other countries next year.

Singapore and Hong Kong also set cautious conditions for the bubble, including a suspension if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked COVID-19 cases exceeded five in either place.

A mooted travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia has also failed to take off, while Europe’s Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia created a short-lived travel bubble in May that burst in September.

“It is important to not let this kill any momentum to open up safely in Asia,” Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst, said of the Singapore-Hong Kong setback. “It is hard to get things aligned given the various spikes.”

Reporting by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and Donny Kwok in Hong Kong; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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Hong Kong-Singapore Bubble Delay Hits Travel Rebound Hopes

(Bloomberg) — The shelving of the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble shows just how delicate the process of reopening borders is — even for places that have largely contained the coronavirus.

The cities’ virus outbreaks are far less intense than in places such as the U.S. and Europe, but a recent uptick in cases in Hong Kong proved enough to delay the start of the air corridor between the two financial hubs by two weeks, dashing the plans of those who booked flights that were due to begin Sunday.

The bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was heralded as a pandemic world-first, allowing people to travel to and from the two places without the need for quarantine. Authorities are reviewing a new launch date.



Ong Ye Kung standing in front of a crowd: Key Speakers at The Singapore FinTech Festival


© Bloomberg
Key Speakers at The Singapore FinTech Festival

Ong Ye Kung

Photographer: Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg

“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs,” Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said Saturday.

The two sides agreed that the bubble would be suspended if local infections exceeded five on a rolling seven-day average. That wasn’t even met in Hong Kong before the decision, but the recent jump in infections there was enough for authorities to apply the brakes, handing another setback to the aviation and travel industries of the two cities, which had some of the region’s busiest airports before the pandemic.



chart: Shares of Cathay and Singapore Air staged a recovery in November with bubble plan


© Bloomberg
Shares of Cathay and Singapore Air staged a recovery in November with bubble plan

Strict border curbs have helped Asia contain the coronavirus better than other parts of the world, with countries from China to New Zealand limiting the entry of travelers and imposing mandatory quarantines as a way of stopping the virus at their doors. But the approach — which has seen some all but eliminate Covid-19 — has come at a heavy cost, decimating tourism with cross-border travel basically paralyzed.

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While in-country containment of the virus has resulted in the world’s 10 busiest domestic air travel routes now all being in Asia, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd., Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. continue to struggle as they have no domestic travel market to fall back on. Cathay’s shares slid as much as 6.6% on Monday and Singapore Airlines dropped 1.7%

Even if the Hong Kong-Singapore corridor opens, the boost to the two aviation hubs will be limited, said Rico Merkert, professor of transport at the University of Sydney’s business school. Singapore Airlines and Cathay will continue to struggle because they can’t funnel onto the route those travelers who would normally arrive from Europe and the U.S., he said.

“Without that feeder traffic, those bubbles will at best be limited to the local population,” Merkert said. “International travel is going to remain a tricky affair.”

Cathay had described the bubble as “a hugely encouraging development and an important first step in

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Hong Kong-Singapore Bubble Delay Shows Travel Rebound Uncertain

(Bloomberg) — The shelving of the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble shows just how delicate the process of reopening borders is — even for places that have largely contained the coronavirus.

Asia’s virus outbreak is dwarfed by those in the U.S. and Europe, but a recent uptick in cases in Hong Kong proved enough to delay the start of the air corridor between the two financial hubs by two weeks, dashing the plans of those who booked flights that were due to begin Sunday. The bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was heralded as a pandemic world-first, allowing people to travel to and from the two places without the need for quarantine.



Ong Ye Kung standing in front of a crowd: Key Speakers at The Singapore FinTech Festival


© Bloomberg
Key Speakers at The Singapore FinTech Festival

Ong Ye Kung

Photographer: Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg

“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs,” Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said Saturday.

The two sides agreed that the bubble would be suspended if local infections exceeded five on a rolling seven-day average. That wasn’t even met in Hong Kong before the decision, but the recent jump in infections there was enough for authorities to apply the brakes, handing another setback to the aviation and travel industries of the two cities, which had some of the region’s busiest airports before the pandemic.



chart: Shares of Cathay and Singapore Air staged a recovery in November with bubble plan


© Bloomberg
Shares of Cathay and Singapore Air staged a recovery in November with bubble plan

Strict border curbs have helped Asia contain the coronavirus better than other parts of the world, with countries from China to New Zealand limiting the entry of travelers and imposing mandatory quarantines as a way of stopping the virus at their doors. But the approach — which has seen some all but eliminate Covid-19 — has come at a heavy cost, decimating tourism with cross-border travel basically paralyzed.

A Third of the World’s Air Routes Have Been Lost Due to Covid

While in-country containment of the virus has resulted in the world’s 10 busiest domestic air travel routes now all being in Asia, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd., Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. continue to struggle as they have no domestic travel market to fall back on.

Even if the Hong Kong-Singapore corridor opens, the boost to the two aviation hubs will be limited, said Rico Merkert, professor of transport at the University of Sydney’s business school. Singapore Air and Cathay will continue to struggle because they still can’t funnel onto the route those travelers who would normally arrive from Europe and the U.S., he said.

“Without that feeder traffic, those bubbles will at best be limited to the local population,” Merkert said. “International travel is going to remain a tricky affair.”

Video: Klook: ‘Really excited’ about Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble (CNBC)

Klook: ‘Really excited’ about Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble

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Cathay had described the

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Hong Kong and Singapore put their planned travel bubble on hold.

The governments of Hong Kong and Singapore have temporarily scrapped a plan for a travel bubble, as Hong Kong grapples with a spike in coronavirus infections. The delay underscores the challenges of reopening international travel routes as efforts to control the virus remain unstable across the world.

The arrangement between the two Asian financial centers, which would allow travelers to bypass quarantine, was set to begin on Sunday. But Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary of commerce, said on Saturday that the two cities were pushing back the plan for two weeks because of a “recent upsurge in local cases” in Hong Kong.

“For any scheme to be successful, it must fulfill the condition of securing public health and also making sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” Mr. Yau said, describing the delay as a “responsible” decision. Further announcements about the plan will be made by early December, he added.

The travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore would have allowed one designated daily flight into each city, carrying up to 200 passengers who tested negative for the virus.

After a period of relatively few infections, Hong Kong recorded 43 new cases and was verifying more possible ones on Saturday, the city’s health authorities said, up from 26 new cases on Friday. Singapore on Saturday recorded five infections, and said that all of them had been brought in from abroad.

Hong Kong has also further tightened its social distancing rules, banning live performances and dancing at bars and nightclubs, and banning room rentals for private parties.

In other news from around the world:

  • A day after Japan reported a record 2,427 new cases, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Saturday that the country would scale back a subsidy program for domestic tourism in places where infection rates are high. The roughly $16 billion “Go to Travel” program was meant to stimulate the economy, but many questioned its wisdom. Mr. Suga told the Japanese parliament on Friday that about 40 million trips had been taken through the program so far, and that 176 of the tourists had contracted the virus. Toshio Nakagawa, the head of the Japan Medical Association, has said that while there is no concrete evidence linking the program to the country’s recent surge in infections, “there is no mistaking that it acted as a catalyst.”

  • Portugal’s prime minister, Antonio Costa, said on Saturday that domestic travel would be banned and schools closed around

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Hong Kong-Singapore ‘travel bubble’ postponed

The highly-anticipated Hong Kong and Singapore “air travel bubble” was postponed Saturday — less than 24 hours before it was due to launch.



a large passenger jet flying over a body of water: A Cathay Pacific passenger airplane takes off from Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok International Airport on March 10, 2020.


© Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images
A Cathay Pacific passenger airplane takes off from Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok International Airport on March 10, 2020.

The bubble would have allowed quarantine-free, air travel between the two Asian hubs. But a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong means the arrangement will be postponed for two weeks, said Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development, at a press conference Saturday.

Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily spike in over three months. Among them, 36 were locally transmitted — including 13 that are untraceable.

The quarantine-free corridor was meant to boost tourism and business travel between the two Asian hubs, which have largely contained their coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong has recorded 5,561 Covid-19 cases, including 108 deaths, since the outbreak began, while Singapore has reported 58,000 infections and 28 deaths.

Quarantine-free travel would have been a big deal for both destinations, where strict arrival regulations have been in place for months. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, both governments shut borders and denied entry to most non-residents and short-term visitors. In Hong Kong, returning residents are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine and wear an electronic bracelet to track their location.

How the bubble was meant to work

The bubble was set to begin Sunday with one flight a day into each city, with a quota of 200 travelers per flight — and later set increased to two flights a day.

Travelers would have to meet certain parameters before embarking, such as having made no trips in the previous 14 days, and undergo compulsory Covid-19 testing. But they wouldn’t be subject to any quarantine or stay-home notice requirements, or a controlled itinerary, upon arrival.

However, the arrangement always included the caveat that should the Covid-19 situation deteriorate in either city, the plan would be suspended.

Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority initially announced on Saturday morning that the travel bubble with Hong Kong would be launched as scheduled. But later that day, the city-state’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced there had been a change of plan.

“Given the evolving situation in Hong Kong, Secretary Edward Yau and I discussed further this afternoon, and decided that it would be better to defer the launch of the ATB, by two weeks. We will review within two weeks on the new launch date and update again,” Ong said.

Hong Kong has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the past few days, after weeks of steadily low number of cases.

The city’s Centre for Health Protection “strongly urged” the public to avoid all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong, and called on residents to avoid going out, dining out and having social contact.

“The scale of the increase is very alarming,” Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch at Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection

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‘Travel Bubble’ Between Hong Kong And Singapore Is Delayed Amid COVID-19 Spike : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

In this Oct. 9, 2020, photo, people walk down a street in Hong Kong. Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong.

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In this Oct. 9, 2020, photo, people walk down a street in Hong Kong. Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong.

Kin Cheung/AP

An arrangement to allow air travelers between Hong Kong and Singapore to forgo quarantine has been delayed after Hong Kong reported a spike in coronavirus cases.

Hong Kong announced Saturday a delay of at least two weeks to the air travel bubble as the city confirmed 43 new cases — including 13 cases that officials have not been able to trace.

The bubble, which was originally slated to start Sunday, would allow a limited number of air travelers to avoid quarantine. To qualify, passengers would have to pass two coronavirus tests — both before departure and upon arrival — and fly on one of a select number of flights.

Both cities currently require most travelers to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, said the postponement was the “responsible way” forward, the Associated Press reported.

“For any scheme to be successful, they must fulfill the condition of securing public health, and also make sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” Yau said.

Yau said enacting the air travel bubble would be revisited early next month, Reuters reported.

Singapore ‘s transport minister, Ong Ye Kung, said in a Facebook post that the postponement is a “sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us.”

“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint,” he wrote.

The South China Morning Post reported that the plan would have allowed up to 200 people to fly each day without a quarantine period.

As part of the arrangement, both Hong Kong and Singapore had agreed to suspend the program for two weeks if the number of local untraceable cases exceeded five on a rolling seven-day average. As of Saturday, Hong Kong was at nearly four, according to the AP.

Hong Kong, alongside Singapore, was lauded by public health officials for its response early into the pandemic. In recent days, however, the city has seen a spike in new infections.

At least one health official has warned of an upcoming “fourth wave” of coronavirus cases, Bloomberg News reports, adding that more social restrictions were planned to help contain outbreaks.

In total, Hong Kong has confirmed more than 5,500 cases of the coronavirus according to Johns Hopkins University. Singapore has confirmed more than 58,100 cases.

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Hong Kong To Singapore Travel Bubble Popped By Virus Spike

A planned travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was scrapped a day before its launch on Saturday after the southern Chinese city announced a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.

The decision is both a blow to the two cities’ battered tourist industries and also for other countries who had been hoping the scheme might be a model to replicate during the pandemic.

The two financial hubs have both suffered mild outbreaks. But with small populations and a heavy dependence on links to the outside world they have been hard hit as the global economy collapsed.

Desperate to help their key tourism and aviation sectors, they came up with the plan allowing limited, quarantine-free travel between the cities as long as visitors test negative for Covid-19.

The travel corridor was set to kick off on Sunday morning.

Hong Kong's tourist industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions severely limiting arrivals Hong Kong’s tourist industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions severely limiting arrivals Photo: AFP / Dale DE LA REY

But on Saturday, Hong Kong announced the scheme would have to be delayed for two weeks following a sudden rise in coronavirus infections.

“In the light of recent surge of local cases we have decided, together with the Singapore government, to defer the air travel bubble’s launch by two weeks,” commerce secretary Edward Yau told reporters.

After weeks of single-digit infections, Hong Kong health authorities reported 36 local coronavirus on Saturday.

Crucially, 13 were from unknown transmission sources, prompting fears the city has a new wave of out-of-control infections.

The sudden spike was enough for authorities in both cities to postpone the travel bubble.

“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs,” Singapore transport minister Ong Ye Kung wrote on his Facebook page.

Copyright AFP. All rights reserved.

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Hong Kong, Singapore Travel Bubble Popped By Virus Spike

A planned travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was scrapped a day before its launch on Saturday after the southern Chinese city announced a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.

The decision is both a blow to the two cities’ battered tourist industries but also for other countries who had been hoping the scheme might be a model to replicate during the pandemic.

The two financial hubs have both suffered comparatively mild outbreaks with strict social distancing and border measures imposed soon after the pandemic first emerged.

But with small populations and a heavy dependence on links to the outside world they have been hard hit as the global economy collapsed.

Desperate to help their key tourism and aviation sectors, they came up with the plan allowing limited, quarantine-free travel between the cities as long as visitors test negative for Covid-19.

The travel corridor was set to kick off on Sunday morning.

But on Saturday, Hong Kong announced the scheme would have to be delayed for two weeks following a sudden rise in coronavirus infections.

“In the light of recent surge of local cases we have decided, together with the Singapore government, to defer the air travel bubble’s launch by two weeks,” commerce secretary Edward Yau told reporters.

After weeks of single-digit infections, Hong Kong health authorities have begun reporting a sudden uptick in cases in recent days.

On Saturday they recorded 36 local coronavirus cases. Crucially, 13 were from unknown transmission sources, prompting fears the city has a new wave of out-of-control infections.

Hong Kong's tourist industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions severely limiting arrivals Hong Kong’s tourist industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions severely limiting arrivals Photo: AFP / Dale DE LA REY

Both Hong Kong and Singapore agreed that seven straight days of five or more unknown transmission cases would be enough to halt the travel bubble.

But Saturday’s double-digit spike was enough for authorities in both cities to postpone the travel bubble.

“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs,” Singapore transport minister Ong Ye Kung wrote on his Facebook page.

Shukor Yusof, an analyst with aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, said that travel bubbles are fraught with challenges.

“Although widely supported by aviation bodies, bilaterally agreed air corridors is not the answer to the crisis,” Shukor told AFP.

“There is no solution until the vaccine is available to all. The more airlines swim against the COVID tide, and try to beat the odds, the worse it will become. Best to endure, stay put, refine the business model and conserve cash,” he added.

Neither Hong Kong nor Singapore have domestic air routes to fall back on. So flagship carriers Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have been hit especially hard.

Singapore is a major market for Hong Kong’s tourism industry with more than 450,000 arrivals from the city-state recorded in 2019, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Hong Kong

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