As part of a push to get more of its population vaccinated, Hong Kong is planning to only allow those who’ve had Covid-19 shots to fly from the city to Singapore once both governments finalise a travel bubble.
“The basis for discussion with Singapore is that people leaving Hong Kong and entering Singapore need to be vaccinated,” chief executive Carrie Lam said, when outlining a plan to give people more leeway with social-distancing rules if they get inoculated. “We want to provide incentives to encourage Hong Kong citizens to get vaccinated,” she said.
Originally slated to start in November, the travel bubble between the two financial hubs was shelved days before it was due to start, after a spike in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong. It was postponed again in December and has since been on hold as cases in Hong Kong flared, including an outbreak last month that was quelled with one of the world’s strictest quarantine regimes.
Hong Kong’s outbreak is now ‘obviously contained’, Lam said with confirmed daily cases lingering in the low double-digits or fewer in recent weeks. The city has reported 11,594 Covid-19 cases in total and 207 deaths.
Bookings for vaccinations at Hong Kong government centres doubled from the previous 24 hours as Lam dangled the prospect of benefits for those who got inoculated, such as being able to dine with more people at restaurants and visit bars.
Singapore also has the coronavirus under control and has relaxed curbs, but progress on resurrecting the travel bubble with Hong Kong is slow as both governments, while desperate to open their borders, take a cautious approach. Still, Singapore isn’t planning to require all travellers from Hong Kong to be vaccinated, Lam said.
The start of designated travel bubble flights wouldn’t plug the massive losses of Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines but it would at least be a positive development. Without domestic markets to fall back on, both airlines have been severely hurt by international travel drying up during the pandemic.