Singapore – Hong Kong ATB likely to be delayed as Singapore tightens COVID-19 restrictions

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The Singapore - Hong Kong ATB looks set for another delay, as COVID-19 community cases continue to rise and Singapore tightens its measures.

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. 

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 1Dose 1
▼ +21 days+28 days
Dose 2Dose 2
+14 days+14 days
Fully VaccinatedFully Vaccinated
Total time ≥ 35 daysTotal 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.

Conclusion

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. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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JW19

I am hoping that this provides an impetus to accelerate the inoculation scheme. To be honest we are really slow as a so called first world nation. The re-emergence of community cases highlights the lurking danger that’s ever present.

Swee Peng

The difference is our vaccination program is voluntary, and unfortunately the lack of education and rampant spread of boomer-whatsapp-knowledge doesn’t help.

ZYX

I register for jab everyday but get disappointed everyday.

Ortloc

As long as the imported cases were not arrested, it was only a matter a time before there would be leakages into the community. As we have seen, the vaccine does not guarantee immunity from infection and the leakage has come in the form of infected airport workers.

Unless the authorities has a change of heart from “managing” to defeating the virus, we will be living in a stop-start world from now on.

Anon

Then they should just open up for the rest who want.

ZYX

I register for jab everyday but still no availability. I find some jabs are administered for FWs in dorms first (which I don’t oppose). So either we don’t have enough supply now for everyone or vaccination centres are too slow.

Ben

“First world” in the eyes of the government and the excellent journalism of SPH which “has been doing the job it has done so well FOR SO LONG”.

NoGuarantee

Almost all the HCW who were infected were vaccinated. TTSH was isolated and is still closed to new cases causing overloading of other hospitals and postponement of all non-urgent life/limb/organ-saving health procedures. Vaccination alone is not the answer. Even if a single-modality solution is desired, vaccination is not the answer; prevention is the strategy that works as evidenced by China Taiwan and HK where the proportion of population still unvaccinated is higher than Singapore yet with lower daily caseloads per capita. If anything, allowing ATB even for vaccinated Singaporeans (& maybe just one B1617-infected within 21-day incubation period vaccinated person… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by NoGuarantee
Wee Lin

Yeah, Taiwan just recorded its worst day since early 2020 after religiously shutting down all ties to the outside world for a year.

Any other idea?

NoGuarantee

Someone slipped through the cracks in the ‘wall’ Taiwan built. No wall is perfect. I was only comparing vaccination vs prevention. Certainly using both together would be better but we should never allow the idea that vaccines are the answer over prevention. Prevention and isolation have worked for centuries for many infectious diseases in times before the idea of vaccines existed. Advocating for the ATB to go ahead, in a way placing the concept of prevention below vaccination, simply because we want to travel is wrong. Almost nobody NEEDS to fly. Everyone needs to live, including unvaccinated people in other… Read more »

Kim

By now the scientific consensus is that Covid will not disappear, that it is here to stay and that we need to find ways to live with it. Vaccinating the whole population is a great way to start doing so, temporary travel restrictions to high risk areas work too. But the concept of “wall building” never worked in history and will fail us here too. As of today we have 2 unlinked cases in a city of 6 million people. If that is the future criteria for imposing a city wide semi-lockdown plus cancelling all travelling the next years will… Read more »

NoGuarantee

Wall is an imperfect word for this (hence my apostrophes above) but nonetheless I stated that no wall is perfect. Subjecting it to numerous stresses will only lead to earlier failure. COVID will not disappear. But loosing B1617 on HK inhabitants so that Singaporeans can have holidays is hardly the right thing to do. Perhaps you have not considered that negative COVID test results are useless during the 21-day incubation period? There have been more than a few such positive cases with symptoms more than 14 days after exposure. How will the 4 COVID tests prevent these?? Or maybe it… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by NoGuarantee
JW19

Vaccination is to reduce the long term effects not to make the virus disappear. Like it or not its here to stay like influenza, it’s how we adapt to survive and not adopt the Australian mindset. We are too small to be self sufficient, this hermit mindset would only set us back further.

Ortloc

The current ATB is all but dead. Who in HK would want to come to a country with increasing community infections with no dining out options and can only visit places in groups of 2; and who in HK would want to welcome people from a country with increasing community infections?

James

You do realise that leisure is not the only reason people travel right?

Migration, business, etc.

Ortloc

Let’s not kid ourselves- the vast majority of ATB users would be leisure travellers. Even then, it’s not a big stretch to say that demand from business travellers and those seeking to reunite with family members would also fall, as they become weary for the same reasons. In addition, few would want to risk being quarantined for 21 days on return should the authorities in HK decide to pause the ATB while they’re in Singapore. As for migrants, they would want to think long and hard whether it’s worth the risk (given that the airport is a major source of… Read more »

Lifshitz

I think you’re wrong. It’s just be a use the leisure travelers are the ones posting all over Instagram while the business travelers and families just book tickets.

In any case, it’s a joke. Good governance, more than anything, is predictable. They said they cancel at more than 35 unlinked cases a week. We haven’t exceeded five per day once. What’s the point in having a criteria if it’s not used? Like putting an 8A fuse into a 13A rated socket.

NoGuarantee

People are still migrating. They just serve the 14 or 21 day quarantine. What’s a month in a hotel when you’re staying forever? Business contracts are being signed and couriered. Meeting are happening on zoom or other platforms. Moving for jobs is still happening – they just serve the quarantine. For all the really important reasons, SG and HK are sill open (unless you’re coming from India).

Alian

All bubbles have only one ending. Never seen a bubble with another ending. Sorry to say it

Lifshitz

Aus/NZ works. Has been Interrupted but works nonetheless.

Steven

Alian means the word “bubble” is not a proper word. Aus/NZ is not called travel bubble officially.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steven
alian

Thanks Steven you got my point spot on.

In Aus/NZ they use the term safe travel or quarantine free.
https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/new-zealand-safe-travel-zone

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