A few weeks ago we learned that Hong Kong and Singapore will be forming a reciprocal travel bubble without a quarantine requirement. Singapore’s Transport Minister suggests this is “the first reciprocal travel bubble in the region, and maybe in the world.”
Well, I wanted to provide an update on this, as travel within this “bubble” is now on sale, and it sounds quite… complicated.
Hong Kong & Singapore travel bubble basics
The Hong Kong & Singapore travel bubble will be opening for travel as of November 22, 2020. While there will be testing requirements, the good news is that there will be no limit on the type of travel allowed, no rules about what can be done at the destination, etc.
Unfortunately that’s where the simplicity with this arrangement ends.
The travel bubble is capped at 200 travelers per day
When the travel bubble arrangement kicks off on November 22, the agreement will be limited to 200 travelers per day.
There will be dedicated travel bubble flights, which will exclusively carry passengers who are going as part of this arrangement. This is in order to limit contact with transit passengers, who the countries feel may pose a higher risk.
The way the flights will work:
- Initially Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will be operating on alternating days
- Then as of December 7 the arrangement will be doubled, so that Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will each be able to operate a daily flight as part of this arrangement
There will be dedicated flights for this travel bubble
Up to three coronavirus tests will be required
Even though Hong Kong and Singapore have few coronavirus cases, that doesn’t mean there won’t be lots of testing. Rather each traveler will need to be tested up to three times, which is expected to cost ~250USD.
Those traveling from Hong Kong to Singapore will have to take the following tests:
- You’ll need to get a coronavirus test less than 72 hour before your departure to Singapore
- You’ll need to get another coronavirus test less than 72 hours before your return to Hong Kong (assuming your original test wasn’t taken more than 72 hours ago, which would only apply for those taking really quick trips)
- When you get back to Hong Kong you’ll need to get another coronavirus test, and then you’ll have to wait in the baggage claim hall for around four hours for the results to come in
Those traveling from Singapore to Hong Kong will have to take the following tests:
- You’ll need to get a coronavirus test less than 72 hour before your departure to Hong Kong
- You’ll need to get another coronavirus test upon arrival in Hong Kong
- You’ll need to get another coronavirus test less than 72 hours before your return to Singapore (assuming your previous test wasn’t taken more than 72 hours ago)
Travelers will have to take up to three coronavirus tests
The travel bubble can easily be suspended
The travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will be suspended if either place sees an average of five or more daily untraced coronavirus cases. So you could be planning this for weeks, and then the arrangement could fall through.
The travel bubble can be suspended with untraceable cases
Coronavirus in Hong Kong & Singapore
At this point coronavirus is well under control in both Hong Kong and Singapore.
Hong Kong has seen a total of under 5,400 cases and 107 deaths, and is now down to single digit new cases daily.
Singapore has seen a total of over 58,000 cases and 28 deaths. Singapore is down to single digit new cases daily, and hasn’t seen a single death in nearly a month.
As you can see, coronavirus is very much under control in Hong Kong and Singapore, especially compared to other places in the world.
Is this a step in the right direction, or…?
I’m sure many in Hong Kong and Singapore are excited to see travel start to reopen, especially in an objectively responsible and low-risk way.
This is probably also a model of what we should expect as more destinations open to tourists, especially those that have largely kept borders closed. I suspect we’ll see more bilateral agreements like this between low risk places, which are individually negotiated.
I love both Hong Kong and Singapore, and I can’t wait to visit again one day. What I’m not sure of is whether this development gets us one step closer to these places opening up on a widespread basis at some point in the future, or one step further away.
Also, I’m curious how you guys feel about this — are these testing requirements a bit over the top? Obviously both destinations have to be commended for how well they’ve handled coronavirus, but in this situation:
- We presumably all agree that both destinations have few coronavirus cases
- We mostly agree that flying is fairly low risk when it comes to the spread of coronavirus, especially on a plane that exclusively has people traveling between two low risk areas
- I see little incremental risk to this arrangement vs. people just going about their everyday lives, so are three separate coronavirus tests for a long weekend away a bit much?
Hong Kong will be opening to those from Singapore
Hong Kong and Singapore are establishing a travel bubble at the end of this month, allowing travel on specially designated flights in conjunction with up to three negative coronavirus tests. It’s great to see this concept finally come to life, and it’s certainly a cautious and low-risk way to restart travel.
Only time will tell if this is the way that travel reopens for more destinations that largely have coronavirus under control.
What do you make of this new Hong Kong & Singapore travel bubble, including the testing requirements?