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Singapore and Hong Kong Start Travel Bubble Flights on November 22nd

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Nov. 11 2020, Updated 2:39 p.m. ET

In what could provide a blueprint guidance for other countries, Singapore and Hong Kong will be resuming leisure travel between the two destinations. This so-called, “travel bubble,” is the first of it’s kind and will allow residents to travel freely between Singapore and Hong Kong with no quarantine requirements. If it works, it may provide a path forward for other travel destinations currently itching to get people back in the air and on the go.

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How it Works

Hong Kong Travel

CNBC reports on the specifics of the program; “Under the new guidelines, passengers will be allowed to travel between the two locations without the need to isolate on arrival. Instead, they will be required to undergo a Covid-19 test and provide a negative result within 72 hours before departure. All travelers arriving in Hong Kong will also be required to take a Covid-19 test at the airport upon arrival.

There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship. However, travelers must have no travel history to any place outside of Hong Kong or Singapore within 14 days prior to departure.

Arrivals will be subject to local Covid-19 restrictions in the respective markets, such as downloading a contact tracing app and wearing masks. Any travelers who contract the virus will be required to bear their own medical costs.

Flights will be initially limited to one per day into each city with a limit of 200 travelers on each flight.”

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Bubble is an Attempt to Recoup Losses in Two Tourist-Heavy Cities

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Both Singapore and Hong Kong have struggled this year as travel restrictions limited tourists. This travel bubble is their attempt to start the long, slow road to recovery. If all goes well and the bubble doesn’t precipitate any rise in cases in either locations, flights are expected to slowly increase after December. 

While prepping for the opening of the travel bubble, authorities in Singapore have ramped up testing and clamped down on travel from other destinations. 

Singapore is projected to contract it’s GDP by 5 to 7 percent, a staggering shrink that has alarm bells sounding all across the country as the pandemic pushes the country into a recession. Hong Kong was already deep in a recession which began in earnest last year during pro-Democracy demonstrations that disrupted the administrative region. The pandemic has only deepened economic woes. 

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An Important First Step

Singapore China

While one flight per day is a far cry from the pre-COVID average of 18 a day between destinations, it’s a start. Per CNBC, “…Singapore’s minister for transport, Ong Ye Kung, hailed the agreement as a ‘first of its kind,’ and said it could go some way in reinstating international travel.

‘The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble enables us to achieve two objectives at the same time – open up our borders in a controlled manner, while maintaining safety in our societies,’ he said.

‘While we may be starting small, this is an important step forward. I have no doubt both Singapore and Hong Kong will co-operate fully to make this scheme work. It will be a useful reference for other countries and regions that have controlled the epidemic, and are contemplating opening their borders,’ he added.”

The world is watching this experiment. If it proves fruitful and cases don’t rise significantly, other tourism-heavy countries suffering from pandemic-related travel losses may see a path forward. It’s just the first step, but it’s a glimpse of hope for so many cities and countries around the world.

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