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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 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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‘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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Hong Kong and Singapore Postpone Travel Bubble: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) —

Hong Kong and Singapore will postpone the world’s first quarantine-free travel bubble for two weeks after a surge in infections in Hong Kong.

Europe is risking a third virus wave early next year unless it takes more action now, according to David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19 preparedness and response.

The U.S. reached a record for daily cases with more than 195,000 infections as states including Ohio and California posted new Covid-19 highs. Russia posted a record for daily deaths and infections.

Global Tracker: Cases reach 57.5 million; deaths 1.3 millionGermany May Extend Lockdown to Slow Virus Before ChristmasPfizer’s Covid vaccine still faces hurdles after FDA filing FridayOne in five U.S. hospitals face staffing crisis within a weekEU could approve BioNTech, Moderna vaccines in DecemberOnly the best London offices thrive in an emerging Covid divideVaccine Tracker: Encouraging breakthroughs offer hope

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.



chart: Covid-19 patients more than doubled since Labor Day


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Covid-19 patients more than doubled since Labor Day

Hong Kong and Singapore Delay Travel Bubble (5:30 p.m. HK)

Hong Kong and Singapore will postpone the world’s first quarantine-free travel bubble for two weeks after a surge in infections in Hong Kong. That’s a setback for their flagship airlines and tourism businesses looking to kickstart a recovery.

Under the current agreement between the two financial hubs, the arrangement is suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases rises to five in either city. The average rose to 3.9 on Saturday from 2.1 a day earlier. The details of the formal re-introduction of the plan will be announced early next month, according to Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development.

U.K. to Ease Restrictions Over Holidays (5 p.m. HK)

The government is preparing to relax the U.K. lockdown to allow “several” families to form a bubble for up to a week over the Christmas period, the Telegraph said on Saturday. The so-called winter plan will outline replacement measures to the current lockdown and will be announced as soon as Monday, the newspaper reported.

Separately, a British hospitality organization warned that the government cutting the job retention bonus will cost the industry 2.1 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) and lead to job cuts, the Telegraph said. U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will unveil the government’s spending plans for the next year on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Saturday that he’s still self-isolating and working from his Downing Street office.

Iran Offers More Support as Lockdown Starts (5 p.m. HK)

The Iranian government will make monthly payments to almost 30 million people over the next four months to support the economy during the coronavirus outbreak, President Hassan Rouhani said. Iran started a two-week lockdown on Saturday, reducing economic activity to essential services and businesses in many areas.

Hungary Posts Record Deaths as Infections Plateau (4:50 p.m. HK)

Hungary reported

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Hong Kong reports spike in daily cases before travel bubble with Singapore opens

FILE PHOTO: A woman, wearing a face mask following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, sorts luggage at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, China October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong reported a spike in daily coronavirus cases to 26 on Friday, two days before an arrangement with Singapore to allow a limited number of passengers to fly both ways without having to go through quarantine kicks in.

Hong Kong has been spared the dramatic escalation of coronavirus cases seen in other major cities, but the rise was big by its standards, with daily cases having mostly been in the single-digits or low double digits in recent weeks.

Of the 26 confirmed cases, 21 were local transmissions, prompting Health Secretary Sophia Chan to say the Chinese-ruled city “probably entered” a fourth wave of infections.

Hong Kong health authorities said another 40 people were likely to be infected, awaiting final confirmation.

It comes as a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore is due to begin on Sunday.

Under the arrangement, people would be allowed to travel between the two cities without observing quarantine but must take a COVID-19 test before departure and upon arrival. There would be no restrictions on the purpose of travel.

Travellers would also have to take designated flights, with only Cathay Pacific 0293.HK and Singapore Airlines SIAL.SI having been selected to operate these flights for now.

If the COVID-19 situation deteriorated in either city the travel bubble would be suspended, the two governments have said.

Hong Kong has recorded around 5,500 coronavirus cases and 108 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.

Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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How do travel bubbles work? 4 questions answered as Hong Kong and Singapore team up.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, even as nations shut their borders and airlines struggled with record-low passenger levels, there was a lot of optimism about “travel bubbles” — a controlled return of quarantine-free air travel between designated cities or countries. Since then, with few countries’ outbreaks truly under control, there has been far more chatter about potential travel bubbles than there have been actual bubbles implemented.

But this weekend, Asia’s first bubble, between Hong Kong and Singapore, will finally make its debut.

The two cities’ “Air Travel Bubble,” set to start Sunday, will test whether regions can safely partner in a return to quarantine-free travel in the pandemic era. The practice could soon emerge in other places, including North America, as scientists learn more about the coronavirus and as nations inch closer to offering vaccines.

So: How do bubbles work? Here’s what you need to know.

What is a travel bubble?

Sometimes called a travel corridor, a travel bubble is a partnership between two or more places with similar rates of covid-19 that allows for quarantine-free leisure travel in both directions.

The first large international travel bubble to make headlines was a potential agreement between Australia and New Zealand, both of which had very low coronavirus caseloads early in the pandemic. The two nations hoped to implement a bubble in September, but those talks sputtered when Australia saw a rise in cases in August. While travel from New Zealand to Australia may not require quarantining, New Zealand still has strict quarantine requirements in place for all arrivals.

Where do travel bubbles exist?

The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania created Europe’s first quarantine-free bubble in May. By July, however, the European Union’s “Re-open EU” initiative had rendered it redundant.

You could, in theory, call Re-open EU — which allowed for controlled travel within the border-free Schengen Area and Britain — a travel bubble, although the E.U. and Britain did not. In that agreement, nations were allowed to set their own restrictions and pace beginning in July, but rising coronavirus cases curbed free travel again not much later: England, for instance, recalled quarantine-free travel conditions with Spain two weeks after allowing travel there. Many E.U. nations implemented new restrictions as coronavirus flare-ups emerged, and since October, many nations have again implemented shutdowns or travel limitations, with quarantines and testing required. (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have since reestablished their own bubble.)

Hong Kong and Singapore, by contrast, have significantly slowed their outbreaks: Hong Kong has had fewer than 5,500 coronavirus cases, while Singapore has seen about 58,000, with the lowest death rate in the world. When the cities’ bilateral air travel bubble opens Sunday, residents will be able to take advantage of daily flights on Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

How does a bubble work?

The creation of a travel bubble does not mean that you’ll be able to visit as freely as you would have pre-pandemic. Instead, travel

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STB investigating gathering alleged to flout Covid-19 rules at RWS hotel, Singapore News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) – Another investigation has been launched over a possible breach of safety measures at a hotel at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).

Videos of a group of at least six women and a man were uploaded on social media on Sunday (Nov 15), when they allegedly held a party to celebrate the 33rd week of pregnancy of one of the women.

Some of the women had uploaded several videos on Instagram, showing themselves play-fighting with pillows and clothes on beds.

Social gatherings of more than five people are prohibited due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Responding to queries from The New Paper on Monday, Mr Chew Tiong Heng, executive director of infrastructure planning and management at the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said it was aware of the alleged incident and was investigating.

“STB takes a serious view of any breach in safe management measures,” he said.

“Hotels are required to comply with all safe management measures, including ensuring that gatherings do not exceed five people if they are not from the same household.”

An RWS spokesman said it takes a serious view of non-compliance and requires all guests to be registered with the hotel front desk.

Safe management measures are highlighted to guests during check-in, and signs are displayed at common areas as a reminder.

He said: “We strongly urge all guests to strictly observe and adhere to all safe management measures for the health, safety and well-being of the Singapore community.”

This is the second such gathering at RWS that has allegedly breached safe management rules in as many months.

Last month, it was reported that a group of at least 10 people, mostly women, were seen drinking and dining together in a hotel suite there. Investigations over the incident are being done.

A reader tipped off TNP on the latest alleged incident and claimed it involved six women and two men who held significant influence over youth here.

One of the women involved has about 57,000 followers on Instagram.

The posts have all been removed from their Instagram accounts.

Individuals who breach safety measures may be fined up to $10,000, or jailed for up to six months, or both.

The maximum sentence is doubled for repeat offenders.

Asked what possible action may be taken if such breaches repeatedly occur at the same location, Mr Chew said hotels that are found to be non-compliant may face closure of its premises.

Businesses that do not comply may also be ineligible for government grants, loans, tax rebates and other forms of assistance.

Rules for staycations at hotels

Staycations are allowed at hotels approved by the Singapore Tourism Board and Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The hotels must comply with existing safe management measures, such as the wearing of masks and practice of safe distancing in public and common areas.

Gatherings, even those in private rooms and adjoining rooms, must be limited to five persons or fewer.

The exception is if the gathering consists only of people who have already

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Singapore Air to Raise S$850 Million After Travel Collapses

(Bloomberg) — Singapore Airlines Ltd. plans to raise as much as S$850 million ($630 million) via the sale of convertible bonds as it seeks to increase liquidity amid a pandemic that’s wiped out travel demand.



a large passenger jet sitting on top of an airport tarmac: Ground staff prepare as a Boeing Co. 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft, operated by Singapore Airlines Ltd., stands docked to a passenger boarding bridge at Changi Airport in Singapore, on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. In May, Osaka and Perth will be first scheduled destinations for the airline's new 787-10s.


© Bloomberg
Ground staff prepare as a Boeing Co. 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft, operated by Singapore Airlines Ltd., stands docked to a passenger boarding bridge at Changi Airport in Singapore, on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. In May, Osaka and Perth will be first scheduled destinations for the airline’s new 787-10s.

The funds will be used for operating cash flow, to service debt and for capital expenditure, Singapore’s flagship carrier said in an exchange filing Thursday. The pricing of the convertible notes is expected shortly.

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Singapore Airlines said Monday that it planned to raise additional liquidity in the debt capital markets and through a sales and lease-back deal after reporting its biggest quarterly net loss.

Read more: Covid-19 Drives Singapore Air to Worst Quarterly Loss on Record

The airline has already raised S$11.3 billion through a rights offering and loans, and is cutting 20% of its workforce. The carrier’s cash burn rate has fallen to below S$300 million a month currently, from about S$350 million during the three months through July.

Read more: Singapore Air Unlikely to Find Profit in 2H: Earnings Outlook

HSBC Holdings Plc will help to manage the note sale.

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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