Singapore & Hong Kong Travel Bubble Postponed Until 2021

Filed Under: Travel

A new travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong was supposed to kick off as of November 22. It ended up being postponed by at least a couple of weeks just hours before launch, and has now been delayed indefinitely.

Why the travel bubble has been delayed

One condition of this new travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong was that it could be suspended in the event that either destination saw an increase in untraced coronavirus cases. There was always the risk that this could eventually be called off, though most people probably didn’t expect that this would happen with launch.

So, where do we stand on that?

  • On November 21, just hours before the November 22 launch, Singapore’s Minister for Transport announced that the launch of the travel bubble would be deferred by at least two weeks
  • On December 1 (today), it has been announced that the launch of the travel bubble will be deferred beyond December 2020 (in other words, into 2021), due to the high number of local unlinked cases; the new launch date will be reviewed in late December 2020

Travelers can still fly between Hong Kong and Singapore, though they’d have to do so under the old rules, which would require a seven day quarantine.

The initial announcement of the travel bubble being deferred came just shortly after Singapore announced that an additional coronavirus test would be required upon arrival in Singapore, meaning travelers would have to take up to four coronavirus tests to travel as part of this arrangement.

The travel bubble was called off one day before launch

How much have coronavirus cases spiked?

What’s keeping this travel bubble from launching is the number of new cases in Hong Kong. Singapore is continuing to see single-digit new cases on most days.

Hong Kong was in a similar place, but is now seeing a spike. For the past few months, Hong Kong saw single-digit new cases on most days, while in the past few days Hong Kong has seen a significant spike in cases, including 115 cases on Sunday alone, which is the highest number of new cases since early August.

It goes without saying that context is important here — obviously this represents a huge spike to what Hong Kong saw before, but we’re still talking about a tiny number of cases compared to most other places.

How the travel bubble was supposed to work

For some basic context, both Singapore and Hong Kong have done a great job with keeping coronavirus case numbers low. Both places have mostly kept their borders closed to visitors. With the travel bubble concept, travelers could go between the two places without the typical quarantine.

However, there are a lot of restrictions associated with the concept:

  • Travelers would need to fly on special travel bubble flights, so that they wouldn’t mix with transit passengers; there were a maximum of 200 daily travelers as part of the arrangement
  • There would be up to four coronavirus tests required (and that’s also costly) to take part in this, including testing before and after travel on both ends

There’s no denying that the focus of this travel bubble was minimizing risk rather than making travel easy and accessible, and that’s totally fair. But this also shows you that even with so many precautions, this concept was at risk even before launch. The risks currently associated with international travel don’t just apply to places where coronavirus isn’t well managed.

I’ll be curious to see when the new travel bubble actually launches, or if this concept just doesn’t make it.

The travel bubble was supposed to be limited to 200 people per day

Bottom line

Singapore and Hong Kong had postponed their travel bubble concept just hours before launch on November 21, which would have allowed travelers to skip quarantine while taking lots of tests. While the travel bubble was initially delayed by a couple of weeks, it has now been delayed into 2021, with the launch date to be determined.

This concept was reliant on there not even being a minimal spike in cases, and unfortunately that’s something that happened.

Presumably many people are out quite a bit of cash as a result of this being canceled. Hopefully people can at least get some of their travel costs reimbursed. I’ll be curious to see if and when this concept actually launches.

Are you surprised to see this travel bubble postponed to 2021?

  1. This bear-zero case count goal of asian countries and NZ/Aus etc will keep them isolated and under a constant state of fear forever

    Meanwhile the rest of the world will move on.

  2. @Grey is alright, please stay in the states , they spend ton of money to make their people safe, they will be happy to keep borders close from you

  3. Travel bubbles aren’t workable.

    Until vaccines are widely fielded: Options are 1) close the borders to arrivals (not citizens) from specific countries (instead of allowing travel from specific places) 2) Korea style quarantine requirements 3) allow travel, and accept the consequences.

    Once vaccines are available the 4th and actually practicable option emerges: allow travel with proof of vaccination.

  4. I agree with Bob and hope for option 4, but sadly I think the naysayers in world governments and amongst us will point to the 5% ineffectiveness and say that’s not good enough.

    It may take many months if not another 1-2 years for mass vaccinations to achieve true herd immunity.

  5. @Greg,

    Except we as Australians can be pretty confident being out and about doing regular things that we won’t catch it.

    I can travel domestically without much of a worry I will either catch it or pass it on to someone else.

  6. @Greg Yes! In the history of humanity now we decide that zero cases is the goal?! If that’s the baseline, then let’s all pull a Jim Jones and toast a cup of poison kool-aid. Or, we could cut the hysteria, turn off media death drum beats and act a bit more rational and realistic about this. Viruses gonna virus.

  7. @Alexander,
    Sure, and that’s definitely great, but the real question is how long do you intend to stay closed from the rest of the world? One year? Two years? Five years? And even then, what? Require vaccination as a pre-condition for entry? Sounds reasonable but what if the vaccine only gives you 90-95% immunity (which means that a vaccinated person might still have Covid) and/or only gives you immunity for a limited period of time? Would you require vaccination+PCR test prior to arrival? But obviously that’s still not perfect as even a negative PCR test does not guarantee that the person in question does not have Covid (might still be in the incubation period). So what? A quarantine for new arrivals forever?

    I’m not saying that the Australian/Kiwi approach is bad per se, I am just thinking whether it’s sustainable in the long run.

  8. Certainly NOT LIVING IN FEAR down under, domestic holidays, unlimited shopping, dining, partying, Tindring no fear here. Oh Christmas with family and the economy just about normal, international tourism is gone replaced by domestic tourists. Less than a 1,000 deaths nationaly mind you most Aussies consider that an outrageous amount. Trade surpluses continue even with China doing it’s best to ban most imports of our products. Living n loving a country that places the lives of it’s citizens above all so a lack of so called freedom for a couple of months in the worst affected state a small price to pay compared to death.

  9. @Timo
    Absolutely my opinion !!!

    We all need to live WITH the virus…zero cases cannot be the solution for travelling again !

  10. Gotta love all the proud Aussie snowflakes commenting on how happy they are to have few cases while being forbidden to travel abroad.
    They talk as if the world was praying for them to open their borders when nobody really cares. LOL
    There are far more interesting places to visit than Australia.
    Ever wondered why so many Australians are flocking to Bali?

  11. For anyone that thinks Australia is suffering – you are wrong. 23 days straight of no cases here in Melbourne – a massive achievement. Try finding somewhere to stay in regional Australia. I just struggled to get the accomodation I wanted in Lightning Ridge and Broken Hill, i.e. outback Australia (NSW). In addition, Lord Howe Island and Sal Salis are booked out through April next year. I am going to Sydney in Dec and tried to extend to a 2nd weekend at the Park Hyatt – was booked out. Times have been extremely tough but we are doing really well now.

    We are good and we are happy. Every country has taken a different approach – please respect ours, we are allowed to do it our way.

    BTW – I am currently supposed to be in Surinam, so yes life has changed.

  12. Lol at all these “experts” (eg Bob) who proclaim that “travel bubbles aren’t workable”…after the fact. Thanks for offering your epidemiological expertise in such a timely manner.

    Typical know it all Americans. Look at your country. Time to sit down and shut up. Get your own backyard in order before commenting on the plans of other countries.

  13. some people have fallen for the Pfizer / Modern 90% effective – sleight of hand trick…actually most people…main st / broad st.

  14. @MDA

    Couldn’t agree more, life has definitely changed! I’m from Brisbane and even though we can’t have our usual overseas holidays during Christmas/New years, I’m grateful for everything and so proud of Australia. Domestic tourism has definitely boomed and booking everything in advance is now a must with all the demand lol

    Australia has been doing relatively well throughout the pandemic and life has been very normal here in the sunshine state. We are definitely blessed our borders were closed early giving us freedom still dine out, shopping, beach etc… Definitely miss the overseas trips, but it has made me realise how much we have right here in our own backyard! Plenty of trips around Australia planned for the next few months and I will surely welcome any travel bubble we end up getting in the future.

  15. Another Aussie here with a different few to my fellow citizens here.

    While I took am glad at the tremendous success Australia has had in suppressing COVID and that in Sydney it’s essentially being business as COVID usual since May with pubs open and no lockdown, I do wonder how long we can or should keep international borders closed.

    I have family overseas who I miss terribly and want to be able to see at some point. I’m not saying a week next Thursday but sometime in 2021 would be good.

    I also see the point that Australia’s success means the country freaks out at a smattering of new cases and many states promptly put in place lockdowns and close internal borders.

    I don’t have all the answers. I understand a smattering of cases can led to many cases and I get that closing borders is an effective control mechanism. But there has to be an exit strategy so that, at some juncture, we can once again fly the roost.

  16. @Joe Chivas Umm I doubt that is happening. The UK is just about to come out of a month long lockdown and NYC is talking about further restrictions coming in the next few days and there are significant concerns about hospital capacity. I’m not sure why London would want people coming in from NYC at this point after having been in lockdown and I don’t see any value in going to NYC at the moment as more things shutdown.

  17. Unbelievable. 76 cases a day is cause for alarm? Props to Hong Kongers for choosing to live in a constant state of paranoia. No wonder why they protest so much.

  18. Travel bubbles don’t work. Locksdowns don’t work. All the measures we’ve seen around the world don’t work. Asking nicely doesn’t work and never will.

    Because people cheat. People lie. People believe nonsense. People make excuses. People don’t think it matters, don’t think rules apply to them. People will ignore rules they don’t like. They’re entitled jerks who don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves. Every post here confirms all that.

    We could have been over this pandemic in a month or two if people had behaved like responsible adults. But the world is full of a-hole spoiled children who must have whatever they want RIGHT NOW so they’re going to do…what they’ve been doing since last Spring. Get used to it.

  19. HELLO evertone and welcome to the real world. I am currently in hibernation in singapore – arrived her saturday night nd spen more than 5 hours getting all the necessary entry requirements done from getting tested on arrival untol hitting the sac around 5am sunday morning but in SG you have o eear maks or its a sgd300 fine plus the contact tracing app must be used everyehere. My aim is to get over yo Yangon, myanmar to syay with my significant half ehom i have not seen since feb 2020and i cannot wven get a flight over there as myanmar has exteded their lockdown until 31/12 so whi knowswhat will happen i was up in the top os MBS yestarday and it was a a vey lonely scene up there and aong Orcahrd it feels like a ghost toen in SG for nowjust need to hunker down and just ride it outgood luck everyone

  20. Singapore allows business trips from Germany using non-stops from Frankfurt etc. You need a travel pass „sponsored“ by your business partner in Singapore. There is testing, but no quarantine. This Green Lane is not open to tourists.

  21. Lucky,

    All the air bubble flights are fully refundable if the bubbles are suspended.
    While I am not sure about hotel packages bought through travel agencies, most independent hotel stays will likely be refunded for most well-known hotel chains.

    About Covid-19, there is no perfect solution that everyone will agree. But IMHO, I am perfectly fine in Hong Kong now. Sure I have to wear a mask everywhere but you get used to it. I miss flying but at least I can dine out, go shopping and have a little social life now. However, I have to say that Hong Kong people can’t be any more politically divisive now, but no one will just choose not to wear a mask to own the other side. We went through SARS and no one will ever want to live through it. If folks in the US and Europe can’t get their acts together, thee Asian-Pacific region will remain closed to them. I am sure a giant travel bubble within the Asian Pacific region will be good too.

    Most importantly, I still think government policies can only work to certain extent and I will argue that folks in Hong Kong never rely on their government. All the mask wearing and social distancing are self-motivated. Ultimately, folks in Asia/Pacific region believe in science unlike some of the political parties in the West. Honestly we as Americans have the best epidemiologists in the world but yet one third of the country chooses to ignore the expertise of these men or even threaten the lives of these men and women. That anti-science stance is the saddest legacy of 2020. I am not promising everything will be back to normal if everyone wears a mask, but if everyone wears a mask, less people will die, and yet we are too selfish to value lives of our fellow Americans.

  22. “ Unbelievable. 76 cases a day is cause for alarm? Props to Hong Kongers for choosing to live in a constant state of paranoia. No wonder why they protest so much.”

    @John: consider the reality of a virus. Today you have 76 cases, in a matter of days if left unchecked it will double, then in just as short a period again that new number doubles again… in weeks you have thousands of cases…

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