Flights between Hong Kong and Singapore under the Air Travel Bubble (ATB) arrangement will begin on November 22, following the conclusion of negotiations earlier this week.
"The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble enables us to achieve two objectives at the same time – open up our borders in a controlled manner, while maintaining safety in our societies,” said transport minister Ong Ye Kung at a press briefing this morning.
If this arrangement is successful, the scheme would serve as a “reference” for other countries and regions that have controlled the epidemic, and are considering opening their borders, he added.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said “the good progress in containing the spread of Covid-19 in Singapore and Hong Kong has given us the confidence to reopen our borders gradually, with safeguards in place to ensure our public health and safety.”
Under the ATB, travellers between Singapore and Hong Kong will be subject to Covid-19 tests, in lieu of quarantine or Stay-Home Notice. There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship.
CAAS said travellers from both cities must travel on designated ATB flights that will only serve ATB travellers.
As a start, there will be one flight a day into each city with a quota of 200 travellers per flight. This will be increased to two flights a day into each city with a quota of 200 travellers per flight from 7 December 2020.
For travellers that have booked seats on other flights, CAAS has advised them to contact their airlines and rebook themselves to be put on the ATB flights.
However, If the Covid-19 situation deteriorates in either city, the travel bubble arrangements will be suspended.
CAAS said the ATB will be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked Covid-19 cases is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong.
And if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked Covid-19 cases on the last day of the suspension period is five or less, the ATB arrangement will resume.
CAAS highlighted should travellers become COVID-19 positive while in Singapore or Hong Kong, they will need to bear the full cost of any medical treatment, subject to the respective cities’ prevailing medical and healthcare policies.
The ATB will apply to any person who has remained in Singapore and/or Hong Kong in the last 14 consecutive days prior to departure is eligible to travel.
However, holders of Work Permits or S-Passes issued by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower working in the construction, marine shipyard, or process sectors are excluded from travelling from Singapore to Hong Kong on the ATB.
All travellers departing from Singapore to Hong Kong will need to apply for approval from Singapore’s Health Ministry to take their pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test if they plan to take their Covid-19 PCR test before 1 December 2020.
They need to apply for approval at least 7 days before departure and will need a confirmed flight ticket to Hong Kong in order to apply.
Upon the receipt of an application approval via email, travellers can contact and take their test at one of the recognised testing facilities in Singapore.
From Dec 1, travellers will no longer need to seek approval, but will still need to take a pre-departure test.
Before leaving Singapore, travellers must book and pay for the post-arrival Covid-19 PCR test at Hong Kong International Airport.
All travellers arriving in Hong Kong are required to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). Travellers must remain in HKIA until they receive their negative test results.
Requirements for travellers (HKG-SIN)
For travellers from Hong Kong to Singapore, they must also take a pre-departure test within 72 hours before the scheduled departure time of the designated ATB flight and obtain a negative test result. They will also need to submit an SG Arrival Card on the SafeTravel website prior to leaving Hong Kong
However, while they are not required to take a post-arrival test, they will be required to download and activate the TraceTogether app throughout their stay here.
The ATP will not apply to Singapore citizens, and PRs, and Long Term Pass holders, although LTP holders need to apply for an Approval Letter for Entry as per the arrangement today.
Travellers can apply for the ATP from 12 November 2020, at 8am Singapore time for entry into Singapore on or after 22 November 2020.
SIA welcomes ATB
In response to the announcement, Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said the ATB is an “important step” for both Singapore and Hong Kong, and “supports the recovery of the airline industry.”
“It paves the way for us to open up in a safe and calibrated way with the necessary testing protocols in place, and provides a promising model for other bilateral arrangements around the world.” Goh added.
SIA also revealed it will operate the ATB flights, while budget carrier Scoot will operate the non-ATB flights for those who are not eligible to travel under the ATB, and reminded customers to ensure they are eligible to travel under the ATB before booking an ATB flight.
Conrad Clifford, Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific at the International Air Transport Association also commented on the ATB, saying "The Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble, though starting small, is a step in the right direction to reboot international travel in the region. We look forward to seeing Hong Kong and Singapore expand this arrangement with other destinations, and for other governments to adopt a similar approach."
He said what is significant is that quarantine measures have been lifted for any travel between Hong Kong and Singapore, and is not limited to just business or essential travel. Replacing this with Covid-19 testing "will help in re-opening borders, restore connectivity that jobs and the economy depend on, and give passengers confidence to travel."