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Little reason for retailers to celebrate Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble

A Singapore Airlines plane takes off at Changi Airport. Image: Reuters/Edgar Su.

The long-delayed travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will not begin for another month – and when it does, there is unlikely to be any benefit to retailers, either at airports or in the city centres. 

In an announcement earlier today, the two governments said the scheme will begin with just one flight each day in each direction from May 26 – and limited to only 200 travellers per aircraft. Before Covid-19, there were 15 to 20 flights every day between the two cities, some using aircraft with considerably higher capacity than 200.  

The travel bubble was first scheduled to begin last November but an unexpected spike in Covid cases in Hong Kong saw the plan suspended indefinitely. 

While there are no restrictions on the purpose of travel between the two cities, it can be expected that most of the passengers at least initially will be business travellers.

Those wanting to travel from either city must test negative for Covid-19 before departure and upon arrival. Hong Kong residents can only fly to Singapore at least 14 days after they have had two doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

However, Hong Kong’s commerce secretary Edward Yau and Singapore’s transport minister Ong Ye Ku said at simultaneous press events that if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local Covid-19 cases is more than five – for either Singapore or Hong Kong – the scheme will be suspended. 

“The re-launch … signifies that gradual resumption of cross-border travel is achievable through mutual collaborations among different places,” said Yau.

The travel bubble will be the first for Hong Kong since March last year when it banned non-residents from entry. 

Meanwhile, eligible Hong Kong residents in the mainland and Macau will be exempt from quarantine in the Asian financial city from as early as this week, secretary for the civil service Patrick Nip said today.

Meanwhile, Singapore has already opened up to general visitors from Brunei Darussalam, China and New Zealand and is in discussions on an air travel bubble with Australia.

Only Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have been approved to run flights in the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble. 

  • Additional reporting by Reuters.

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