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Hong Kong, Singapore aim to start travel bubble in May

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People walk along a bridge next to the financial business district in Singapore on April 20, 2021. AFP

Hong Kong, Singapore aim to start travel bubble in May

Hong Kong and Singapore on April 26 announced plans to resurrect their scrapped coronavirus travel bubble with dedicated flights between the two cities starting on May 26.

The two business hubs had to abandon a highly anticipated quarantine-free travel corridor late last year after Hong Kong was hit with a fourth wave of infections.

From May 26, one flight per day carrying up to 200 passengers will shuttle between the two cities. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will share the route with two daily flights planned from June 10 onwards.

Hong Kongers heading to Singapore will have to have received two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Sinovac vaccines – an attempt to encourage inoculation in a city where take-up so far has remained a tepid 11 per cent despite ample supplies.

Travellers from Singapore – where the vaccination rate is around 20 per cent -- will not be required to have been inoculated but must test negative before departure and on arrival.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore maintain strict quarantine rules for all arrivals, a measure that has kept infections comparatively low. But the restrictions have battered tourism and the wider economy.

While countries are desperate to restart global travel, quarantine-free bubbles have had limited successes. Taiwan and Palau set up a dedicated travel bubble last month followed by Australia and New Zealand.

On April 23, New Zealand paused arrivals from Western Australia after an outbreak there.

The EU is keen to allow US tourists who are vaccinated to be able to visit without restriction come the summer.

But with global infections still rising and only a tiny minority of the world's population vaccinated, widespread travel corridors remain a distant hope.

Hong Kong and Singapore's bubble is dependent on both sides remaining relatively coronavirus-free in the coming months.

Both sides have agreed that the bubble will be suspended for two weeks if the daily average of untraceable infections in one week reaches more than five in either city.

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