Hong Kong - Singapore travel bubble to move forward, despite mutant coronavirus strain

  • The two cities are set to outline plans for restoring travel by mid-May
  • Hong Kong confirmed its first locally detected Covid-19 case of the N501Y strain over the weekend

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Plans for a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore are moving forward, even though HK has seen cases of the mutant coronavirus strain. Photo: AFP

Sources say that a much-anticipated Covid-19 travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will remain on course for a mid-May launch, despite the former having confirmed community cases of a mutated coronavirus strain.

The two cities are set to outline plans in the coming days for restoring travel links next month, sources familiar with the talks have revealed.

“We will not pull out of the plan,” a Hong Kong government insider said. “The Singapore government is very keen on materialising it as soon as possible.”

The development came as Singapore announced it would halve the isolation period required for travellers from Hong Kong to seven days, starting from Thursday, and they would also be allowed to stay at their place of residence instead of a dedicated government facility.

What do we know about the mutant Covid-19 strains in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong authorities also recently eased restrictions for Singaporeans, allowing those who were not vaccinated to quarantine for 14 days at a designated hotel followed by seven days of “self-monitoring”, compared to 21 days at a hotel previously.

The insider said the timing of the announcement on the travel bubble was aimed at allowing sufficient time for interested travellers to be fully vaccinated, a condition for Hongkongers joining the scheme.

The Hong Kong government classifies someone as fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving their final jab.

But Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a Chinese University respiratory medicine expert and government adviser on the pandemic, called on both sides to first overcome the threat of coronavirus strains before relaunching travel.

How coronavirus variants form

He said he was not optimistic a travel bubble between the two cities could be established at this stage.

Hong Kong is on alert after a 29-year-old man working in Dubai as an engineer was confirmed on Saturday to be the first locally detected Covid-19 case with the N501Y mutation, which has been linked to more infectious variants.

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His friend, a 31-year-old woman, was confirmed to be infected the next day. Hui suggested the strain was the South African variant.

Experts in Singapore also pointed to the detection of two new local infection clusters over the past week in the country as a sign residents should not let their guard down.

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