Singapore could be first to restart travel with Hong Kong once ‘vaccine passports’ are introduced

Following the collapse of the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble last year, the two cities still have their eyes set on each other with COVID-19 vaccinations underway. Photo: Unsplash/Swapnil Bapat
Following the collapse of the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble last year, the two cities still have their eyes set on each other with COVID-19 vaccinations underway. Photo: Unsplash/Swapnil Bapat

With vaccine roll-outs underway globally, one lawmaker says that Hong Kong can start looking into “vaccine passports” that would allow those who have taken the jab to travel to other countries—with Singapore likely to be first on the list.

Referring to the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble that fell through in November, tourism sector legislator Yiu Si-wing said in an RTHK interview Friday: “At the end of last year, Hong Kong and Singapore already had a timetable [for reopening borders].”

If the epidemic remains under control in both cities, Yiu said, Hong Kong and Singapore could reconsider the arrangement and restart travel between them.

Yiu added that the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, which oversees Hong Kong’s Tourism Commission, is exploring the idea of introducing vaccine passports to facilitate a return to travel.

Earlier this month, Singapore’s transport ministry said that the city already has an “agreed text with Hong Kong” and that the bubble can be launched “when conditions are right.”

Plans for the long-awaited travel bubble, meant to be a milestone in both cities’ fight against COVID-19, came to an unceremonious end a day before its launch late November due a spike in cases in Hong Kong.

A gold and silver balloon garland heralding the travel bubble at the Hong Kong airport was promptly burst, resulting in viral photos of balloon debris lying in a deflated heap on the floor.

The bubble would have allowed up to 200 travelers to fly from Hong Kong to Singapore, and vice versa, on one flight a day, without completing a quarantine. Travelers would have needed to test negative for COVID-19 pre-departure.

Hong Kong’s COVID-19 epidemic has largely eased in recent months, with an outbreak at a gym earlier this month appearing to have come under control. The city reported 13 new cases on Friday, among which 10 were local.

Life in Singapore has also returned to relative normalcy. Since the start of the year, the country has recorded either zero local cases, or infections in the single digits, daily.

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