SINGAPORE — Singapore has not given up on forming a bilateral “air travel bubble” with Hong Kong that will enable vacationers to skip quarantine, the Southeast Asian nation’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung advised CNBC.
The association was supposed to start final November however was postponed after Hong Kong reported a resurgence in new Covid-19 instances. A brand new launch date has not been set, however Ong stated authorities from each side have been in contact.
“As you know, the agreement has been signed, concluded. We’re making a few tweaks, a few proposals to tighten it,” the minister advised CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.
“But I think the key consideration now is this is shortly after Chinese New Year and both sides are being cautious. We want to watch if there’s any impact due to Chinese New Year on community transmission,” he added.
The Lunar New Year festivities passed off final month. Celebrations usually contain gatherings and visiting the properties of household and pals — occasions that had been scaled down in lots of international locations this yr as a result of pandemic.
Ong stated there seems to be no signal of elevated Covid transmission following the festivities.
In Singapore, new each day instances have remained low, with no neighborhood infections on most days, he stated. As of Wednesday, the nation has reported greater than 60,000 confirmed instances and 29 deaths for the reason that outbreak started, well being ministry knowledge confirmed.
Over in Hong Kong, the variety of each day new instances has additionally come down from a latest peak in January. As of Wednesday, town has reported greater than 11,000 confirmed and possible Covid instances and 203 deaths, official knowledge confirmed.
Both Singapore and Hong Kong are main Asian enterprise hubs that do not have home air travel markets. Their tourism and aviation industries, closely reliant on worldwide travel, have been badly hit by the pandemic.
In addition to Hong Kong, Singapore is eager to determine “travel bubble” preparations with different locations, stated Ong, who’s predicting “some recovery” in aviation this yr.
“What is in our favor is vaccination. What is not in our favor is mutations and variants that are more transmissible and may not respond to the vaccination. So you got this opposing forces, and I think that is the nature of this battle, it keeps throwing you curveballs,” stated the minister.
“But notwithstanding that, I think vaccination is a big gamechanger and some time this year we hope to see some recovery. And when we look at recovery, I think air travel bubble is a major plank for us to work on,” he added.
Vaccination charges is not going to be the one consideration for Singapore in opening its borders, stated Ong. He added that the observe file of nations and territories, on the subject of pandemic management, is a extra necessary issue.
The minister identified that even earlier than vaccinations had been underway, Singapore was in a position to open up to some locations that had been thought-about “safe.”
Over the previous yr, Singapore has allowed guests from a number of locations — together with Australia, New Zealand, mainland China and Taiwan — to skip quarantine in the event that they meet sure necessities, reminiscent of a unfavorable Covid-19 polymerase chain response (PCR) take a look at upon arrival.
Ong stated round 1,000 such vacationers enter Singapore every day with out having to quarantine, and haven’t led to increased Covid transmission charges within the nation to date.
“We still need to take a country by country, bilateral approach,” he stated.
“As a place, as a territory or as a country, their infection control track record continues to be the key outcome that we need to look at. And if they’re successful, we should continue to open up to them and form air travel bubbles with them.”