The long-awaited travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will launch on November 22, with the number of people allowed to move quarantine-free in each direction initially limited to 200 per day.
Details of the landmark deal struck during the coronavirus crisis were released in simultaneous press conferences held in both cities on Wednesday morning.
“This policy is not easy to come by,” said Edward Yau Tang-wah, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development.
“Whether the bubble can work and sustain wellwill depend on cooperation from all sides, including the participation of residents and their efforts in maintaining social distancing.”
Hong Kong and Singapore last month reached an agreement to establish a travel bubble that would allow movement between the two places without the need for quarantine.
Travellers from both cities must board designated bubble flights. At the start of the scheme, there will be one flight a day into each city with a quota of 200 travellers per service.
From December 7, the number of flights into each city will be increased to two daily.
The travel bubble would be suspended if the daily average number of untraceable Covid-19 cases in a week reached more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong. If that figure then dropped to five or fewer, the bubble would resume.
Singapore’s transport minister Ong Ye Kung said: “This is as close as it gets to cross-border travel pre-Covid-19, and this is only possible because both Singapore and Hong Kong have successfully controlled the spread of Covid-19.”
For the launch on November 22, Singapore Airlines’ designated travel bubble service will operate between the city state and Hong Kong, while Cathay Pacific will run a return flight.
From November 23 to 29, Singapore Airlines will fly these bubble flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and Cathay will do so on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They will swap this arrangement from November 30 to December 6, after which there will be daily flights from each airline.
Singapore Airlines will operate the Singapore-Hong Kong route via flight SQ890, with the return flight SQ891.
Cathay Pacific’s designated travel bubble flight from Hong Kong to Singapore will be CX759, returning as CX734.
To access the travel corridor, a passenger from Hong Kong to Singapore must take a coronavirus test within 72 hours before departure at either one of the 19 government-accredited laboratories, or at one of the four community centres starting their long-term operations on November 15 and charging HK$240 (US$31) per test. No arrival test for Hong Kong passengers is needed at Singapore’s airport.
A traveller from the city state to Hong Kong would similarly need to take a test in Singapore during the three-day window ahead of the flight, costing between S$200-300. On arrival at Hong Kong airport, the passenger must undergo another PCR test at a designated zone for HK$490.
A passenger travelling between the two cities within three days would not need to take another test before the return flight. The minimum screening costs for a round-trip would therefore be HK$739 per person.
Both Hong Kong and Singapore have also sought to form travel bubbles of their own with other destinations to revive tourism.
In 2019, Hong Kong had more than 450,000 arrivals from Singapore, according to Hong Kong Tourism Board. Its counterpart in the city state said it had 489,000 visitors from Hong Kong the same year.