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Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble postponed

HONG KONG — Singapore and Hong Kong on Saturday postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism for both cities, amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong.
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HONG KONG — Singapore and Hong Kong on Saturday postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism for both cities, amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong.

The air travel bubble, originally slated to begin Sunday, will be delayed by at least two weeks, Hong Kong’s minister of commerce and economic development, Edward Yau, said at a news conference.

The arrangement is meant to allow visitors between the two cities to travel without having to serve a quarantine as long as they complete coronavirus tests before and after arriving at their destinations, and fly on designated flights.

Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, including 13 untraceable local infections.

“For any scheme to be successful, they must fulfil the condition of securing public health, and also making sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” Yau said. “In light of the situation in Hong Kong, I think it’s the responsible way to put this back for a while, and then sort of relaunch it at a suitable juncture.”

Under the initial agreement, the air travel bubble was to be suspended if the number of untraceable local infections in either Singapore or Hong Kong exceeds five on a seven-day moving average. The current average of unlinked cases in Hong Kong is nearly four.

Although the average of five had not been reached in Hong Kong, the bubble was suspended after Yau and Singapore's transport minister, Ong Ye Kung, held discussions on Saturday.

Prior to the postponement, Singapore said Saturday morning that travellers arriving from Hong Kong via the bubble would be required to take a coronavirus test on arrival. Originally, only people landing in Hong Kong were to be required to be tested.

Ong said in a Facebook post Saturday that the postponement is a “sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us."

“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint,” Ong wrote.

Zen Soo, The Associated Press