The much anticipated Singapore – Hong Kong ATB may not be going ahead as planned after all, due to a resurgence of COVID-19 community cases in Singapore.
Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau disclosed in a press conference today that the Singapore authorities had indicated there was a “high chance” the ATB would not be proceeding as usual, based on current trends.
Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung has also said that there will be a “critical review” of the start date of the ATB.
“The assessment is: Given the rising cases in Singapore, it is very likely that Singapore will not be able to meet the resumption criteria”
“What we’ll do now is closely monitor the numbers next few days, critically review the start date and early next week, we will make a decision and make an announcement on the Singapore, Hong Kong air travel bubble”
The 7-day average of unlinked community cases (7DA) in Singapore stood at 2.14 as of last night, still below the 5 necessary to trigger a suspension. However, given the current trajectory, it seems less likely by the day that a 26 May commencement is still viable.
Singapore ATB index (daily average of unlinked community cases in the past week) as of May 13: 2.14.
The details are depressing with mystery cases of homemaker and FDWs who mostly stayed at home. We are dealing with a very nasty variant which transmits really easily. pic.twitter.com/DC8qvW9iQ3
— Septian Hartono ن 😷💉💉 (@septian) May 13, 2021
A final decision will be made next week, but it’d take a brave man to bet on a business-as-usual scenario.
Potential changes to ATB?
It might be grasping at straws, but perhaps the operative term here is “as usual”. There’s always a possibility that the bubble mechanism will be tweaked to allow it to proceed, and the most obvious adjustment will be requiring all passengers to be vaccinated.
That would be a major setback for most Singapore travelers, at least those under 45 who have not been able to get vaccinated yet. The vaccination rollout for this group will only start from June, and the 35-42 day time lag between the first jab and full effectiveness would rule out ATB travel until July at least.
|Dose 1||Dose 1|
|▼ +21 days||▼ +28 days|
|Dose 2||Dose 2|
|▼ +14 days||▼ +14 days|
|Fully Vaccinated||Fully Vaccinated|
|Total time ≥ 35 days||Total time ≥ 42 days|
Alternatively, it could be that travelers may be required to undergo a reduced quarantine on either side, but that would defeat the purpose of a bubble.
All things considered, my money is on another delay, given the increased social restrictions that have just been announced.
Tighter restrictions across Singapore
As you’re no doubt reading now, Singapore will tighten COVID-19 measures even further from 16 May through 13 June 2021.
The maximum group gatherings allowed will be reduced from five to two people, dining-in will be suspended, and working from home will become the default at workplaces. Individuals are advised to continue to limit their overall number of social gatherings to not more than two per day.
I’ve already discussed the implication of the initial set of tightened measures on staycations and cruises here, but there may be further changes now. If dining-in is restricted, I find it difficult to see how cruises can proceed, for example. I don’t see anything here that would rule out staycations, but I imagine there’ll be greater clarity soon.
The Singapore – Hong Kong ATB seems positively jinxed by now, and while I don’t doubt it’ll eventually happen, it’s probably going to be a later rather than sooner thing.
There are currently 11 active clusters in Singapore, and we just saw four unlinked community cases yesterday. Stay safe, everyone.