Face off: Is it a good idea for Hong Kong to form travel bubbles?

  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint
  • This week, they discuss whether the city should form travel agreements during Covid-19
Kelly Fung |

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The idea of a travel bubble with countries like Thailand and Taiwan has been in the news lately; do you think it's a good idea?

Amber Kwok, Renaissance College

Although experts say people should not be going on holiday amid the global pandemic, I believe it is worth forming travel bubbles with some countries.

According to recent newspaper reports, Hong Kong has approached 11 countries about setting up such travel arrangements. These destinations have had some success in containing  the coronavirus.

This is good news because Hongkongers have been stuck at home for many months. Restaurants have introduced social distancing measures while sports centres and other venues have been closed on and off. A lack of proper outdoor activities has caused serious emotional and mental health problems among locals. Allowing people to travel abroad is one way to solve this problem.

What's more, the city’s tourism industry has warned that our economy is in danger of collapse if border restrictions are not lifted soon.

I think that special travel arrangements with the mainland and some overseas countries could be introduced successfully.

Of course, only those who have tested negative for Covid-19 should be allowed to travel. They should be tested again when they returned to Hong Kong.

We can’t say the system would be foolproof, but Hong Kong has seen a lower number of infections recently. So we can be fairly confident that travel bubbles to places with similarly low numbers won’t make the crisis worse.

We have to acknowledge that ultimately we will have to start relaxing border restrictions soon for the sake of the city’s economy and people’s health. As long as it is done while ensuring people’s safety, I cannot foresee any problems with forming travel bubbles with some countries.

Does online learning do more good than harm?

Karl Lam, German Swiss International School

While some people may argue that the tourism industry should fight for travel bubbles, it is unwise to do so in the interest of public health and safety. 

Hong Kong will not be able to cope with another big coronavirus outbreak. There are nearly eight million people here and most of them live in small flats. This means the virus can spread easily among family members and then into the community. What’s more, hospitals will be overwhelmed with patients, imposing a severe burden on our frontline health care workers.

Hundreds of people have been infected during the virus’ ongoing third wave, with dozens of deaths. Two months later, and we are now slowly easing restrictions.

A travel bubble might sound safe if everything goes according to plan, but Covid-19 poses challenges on two fronts: silent carriers, and the mutating virus. If we start travelling back and forth, people could easily be exposed to the disease, irrespective of the country they are visiting.

In addition, the reason for forming travel bubbles is purely for leisure. While some people complain about cabin fever or the travel itch, officials should think about the possibility of another global coronavirus outbreak which would make the situation even worse.

So instead of going abroad, why not take a holiday in the city, and think of innovative ways to stay safe locally and have fun? 

There are many local community activities offered by the city’s hospitality industry to keep us entertained in the meantime. 

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