SINGAPORE: The launch of the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble, originally planned for May 26, will be deferred for the second time.
The deferment comes amid a recent increase in unlinked COVID-19 community cases in Singapore. The country is "unable to meet the criteria to start" the air travel bubble, said Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Monday (May 17).
The authorities will review a new launch date towards the end of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), which runs to Jun 13.
The air travel bubble, which was initially due to launch on Nov 22 last year, was deferred after a rise in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong.
Both cities announced on Apr 26 – before the increase in unlinked community cases in Singapore – that the travel bubble would resume on May 26.
Under the terms of the agreement, the travel bubble will be suspended for at least 14 days if the seven-day moving average of unlinked local COVID-19 cases a day, excluding dormitory resident cases in Singapore, is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong.
PROTECT THE HEALTH OF TRAVELLERS AND PUBLIC
Singapore's Minister for Transport S Iswaran had a meeting on Monday morning with Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau on the travel bubble.
"Both sides ... agreed to defer the launch of the air travel bubble to protect the health of travellers and the public in these two places,” said MOT.
“Singapore and Hong Kong will closely monitor the public health situation in both places and review the new launch date of the air travel bubble flights towards the end of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) in Singapore.”
MOT said both cities remain "strongly committed" to launching the travel bubble safely.
A Hong Kong government spokesperson said they will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation in both cities.
"During this period, both sides will continue to maintain communication, exchange relevant data and statistics, and review developments closely before deciding on the way forward with the inaugural flights under the air travel bubble," the spokesperson added.
"A further announcement will be made on or before Jun 13."
Travellers may still continue their journey on non-designated air travel bubble flights, but such travellers will be subject to the prevailing border control and health requirements of both places.
Singapore residents returning from Hong Kong will be subject to a seven-day stay-home notice upon entry into Singapore.
MOT added that airlines will be contacting affected passengers to provide assistance. Passengers may also reach out to their airlines regarding their travel plans.
Singapore on Monday reported 28 new COVID-19 cases, including 21 in the community. Ten of the new community cases are linked to previous infections, while 11 are currently unlinked.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Sunday said the number of new cases in the community has increased from 39 in the week before to 131 in the past week.
The number of unlinked cases has also increased from six in the week before to 32 in the past week.
The Changi Airport COVID-19 cluster is currently the largest active cluster in Singapore, with 74 cases linked as of Sunday.