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SINGAPORE: Singapore and Hong Kong have reached an in-principle agreement to establish a bilateral air travel bubble, which will exempt travellers from quarantines or stay-home notices. Those travelling under the bubble will have no restrictions on their travel purpose and will not need to have a controlled itinerary, said the Transport Ministry (MOT) in a press release on Thursday (Oct 15). Travellers will also not be subject to quarantine or stay-home notice requirements.

However, travellers will need to test negative on mutually recognised COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. 

They will also be required to go on flights dedicated for those travelling under the bubble.  The air travel bubble, said MOT, can be "scaled by adjusting the number of dedicated flights upwards or downwards, or even suspended, in line with the latest developments and COVID-19 situation in the two cities". "Both our cities have low incidence of COVID-19 cases and have put in place robust mechanisms to manage and control COVID-19," said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung. "This has given us the confidence to mutually and progressively open our borders to each other."

"It is significant that our two regional aviation hubs have decided to collaborate to establish an air travel bubble. It is a safe, careful but significant step forward to revive air travel, and provide a model for future collaboration with other parts of the world," he added.  MOT said that "with a view to achieving early implementation", both Singapore and Hong Kong are "committed to fleshing out the full details" of the air travel bubble "in the coming weeks". 

The air travel bubble launch date and other implementation details will be announced in due course, said the ministry. Last week, Mr Ong said in a ministerial statement delivered in Parliament that Singapore is pursuing air travel bubbles with safe countries and regions, in addition to other measures like unilaterally lifting border restrictions as part of the country’s plans to revive its air hub.

These air travel bubbles are for general travellers that do not require a controlled itinerary. They are different from reciprocal green lanes meant for official and essential business travel. "While we should establish (air travel bubbles) only with safe countries and regions, we can further manage risks by setting a quota on the number of travellers per day and ensuring that everyone abides by COVID-19 test protocols," the minister had said.

"We also require travellers to apply for an air travel pass before their journeys, to allow us to plan for their arrivals, and throttle down the numbers, reduce the quota, if the epidemic situation changes." In his speech, he had mentioned Hong Kong as among the partners that Singapore hopes to commence discussions on establishing air travel bubble agreements.

Earlier this week, Hong Kong was added to the list of “low risk” places where travellers entering Singapore can serve a shorter stay-home notice of just seven days. The Oct 12 update from the Ministry of Health said travellers are also allowed to serve the stay-home notice at their place of residence, instead of a designated facility.

(source - Channel News Asia)

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