SINGAPORE: Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung warned on Saturday (Nov 21) that there is a "high chance" of the air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong being suspended if the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong continues on its current trajectory.
Speaking to reporters a day ahead of the launch of the travel arrangement - which will proceed on Sunday, but with an additional COVID-19 test for travellers from Hong Kong - Mr Ong said both cities were "still considered low-risk".
"So tomorrow, the air travel bubble will be launched. But there's a high chance if Hong Kong continues to have tens of cases with a fair number of unlinked cases, it may be suspended. I think there's a high chance it may be suspended based on what we have agreed on," said Mr Ong.
Under the terms of the travel bubble, the arrangement would be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases exceeds five per day in either city.
On Saturday morning, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said the figure for Hong Kong was currently 2.14.
If there are more than 22 unlinked cases in Hong Kong over the next three days, the threshold of five will be exceeded, said CAAS. A two-day notice period will then be triggered, after which the suspension comes into effect.
Hong Kong is experiencing a spike in the number of cases, a situation the Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan has described as "severe". There were 26 new infections reported on Friday.
READ: Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble - Additional COVID-19 test for passengers from Hong Kong, flights to go ahead on Sunday
On Saturday, Mr Ong also referred to Hong Kong as a "natural partner" for the air travel bubble, citing its resilience, reliability and trustworthiness.
He recognised that implementing an arrangement like the travel bubble would not be smooth but he explained why both sides decided to go through with it.
"We are cities and we depend on the world to earn a living and survive. We are both aviation hubs," Mr Ong said.
"So it wasn't just about bringing in tourists, which are important, but also making sure that we continue to have our airlines, continue to have our Changi Airport and they continue to have their HKIA (Hong Kong International Airport).
"And we continue our way of life and in some ways, preserve our identity as people of global cities."
READ: Air travel bubbles, more green lanes part of plans for Singapore to ‘revive’ Changi Air Hub amid COVID-19 - Ong Ye Kung
Mr Ong spoke at the Singapore Airlines (SIA) training centre, as SIA began the first of its behind-the-scenes tours taking place over this weekend and next.
He acknowledged that the launch of the travel bubble was somewhat "blemished" by the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong, but said that with the right precautions - using masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated areas - trips were still possible.
"I think you can still have a very meaningful, enjoyable trip, whether it's to Hong Kong, or whether it's to Singapore."