Travel bubble plans with Hong Kong not blown up by COVID on SIA flight: transport minister

Singapore Airlines aircraft taxis in Hong Kong. Photo: MNXANL
Singapore Airlines aircraft taxis in Hong Kong. Photo: MNXANL

Hong Kong’s decision to bar inbound Singapore Airlines flights for two weeks due to a passenger with COVID-19 won’t affect ongoing discussions about creating a safe travel zone, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in parliament today. 

Ong said the national carrier was just one of many airlines to be temporarily barred by the city over coronavirus fears amid updates he was providing on Singapore’s vaccination program, which included word that anyone under 45 will be able to schedule their jabs starting in June.

“Any travel bubble will not carry transit passengers,” Ong said of travel measures, meaning only direct flights between both cities would be eligible. 

He said part of that discussion involves the development of the kind of vaccination certification necessary for so-called “COVID passports” to allow inoculated Singaporeans to travel without quarantine. 

Hong Kong on Friday barred Singapore Airlines flights arriving from Singapore until April 16 due to issues with four flight SQ882 passengers who had not originated in Singapore. One tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving Wednesday, while test documents certifying the other others came from uncertified labs, according to Ong. 

Over a million people in Singapore had received their first vaccine dose as of Saturday, a senior health official said earlier in today’s session, nearly half of whom are now fully inoculated with both shots since the program began in late December for frontline workers and the elderly. 

Those below 45 will be invited to book vaccination appointments in June. 

Ong said the passenger confirmed to have the coronavirus last week, reportedly from Indonesia, had tested negative pre-departure and may have been contagious, he said. 

Travel between Hong Kong and Singapore was supposed to begin in November, but plans were postponed after Hong Kong experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Singapore is also in talks with some countries to mutually recognize vaccine certifications. Ong did not mention how many that entailed but mentioned Australia as among them. These certificates, which have also been called vaccination passports, will have to be verifiable and tamper-proof, Ong said. 

Singapore continues to average a couple dozen new cases each day – 17 on Monday – largely among people arriving from abroad. The country has counted over 60,000 cases and 30 deaths. 

Other stories:

Lee Hsien Loong gets vaccine jab for all to see
Singapore could be first to restart travel with Hong Kong once ‘vaccine passports’ are introduced
Everything we know so far about Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination plan

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