Deferring ATB Might’ve Been Correct as HK Reported More Cases on Sat & is Now Seen as the ‘Fourth Wave’

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It’s confirmed: Being optimistic in 2020 will only lead to disappointment.

If you’re one of the many Singaporeans who purchased tickets to Hong Kong the moment the air travel bubble between the two countries was announced, you’ve probably heard the tragic news.

If you’ve not, I’d urge you to grab that huge chicken nugget pillow you purchased recently as well as a box of tissues.

On Saturday morning, the gahmen announced that the SG-HK air travel bubble (ATB) would begin on 22 Nov as planned, despite the alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong.

But just hours later, they said the ATB will be postponed by two weeks.

Even though you were due to fly off the next day, you, of course, understood the need to take precautions, and didn’t shed a single tear.

In reality, you cried for hours and cursed at the coronavirus, but this may have been a sensible move by the authorities, given how many cases Hong Kong reported on the same day.

A Sensible Move

Before Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced the tragic news in a Facebook post, there were already a few worrying signs of an escalating outbreak in Hong Kong.

Over a week ago, on Friday (13 November), the city reported six new infections, four of which were locally transmitted cases.

This may not seem like a concerning number, but because two of them were unlinked, experts worried the number would continue to rise.

And it did.

26 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Friday (20 Nov), of which 21 were locally transmitted.

And of those 21, 9 were untraceable.

Previously, both countries agreed that if the number of unlinked local infections exceeded five in either city on a rolling seven-day average, the ATB would be suspended for two weeks.

On Saturday (21 Nov), Hong Kong recorded 43 new infections, 36 of which were locally transmitted. 13 were untraceable.

This brings the average number of unlinked local infections to 3.86 for the past week.


While the mark of five per day has not been reached yet, the authorities expect things to get worse.

As Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said: the pandemic is now “coming in full fury”, in what many see as the fourth wave of the outbreak in Hong Kong.

If there are more than 22 unlinked cases in Hong Kong over the next three days, the threshold of five will be exceeded.

The move may be bad news to the tourism sector of both countries, but given the need to prioritise public health, it’s clearly the right one.

Refund for Passengers

The good news is that both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines are refunding passengers for their tickets.

Affected passengers are also allowed to rebook flights.


Meanwhile, both cities will hold talks and a new launch date will be announced in early December, said Edward Yau Tang-wah, Hong Kong’s commerce minister.

“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs. But we will press on and look forward to when we can safely launch the air travel bubble”, Minister Ong said.

Even though the suspension is only for two weeks, you should prepare your hearts for further breakage, as the situation in Hong Kong may worsen.

As we’ve learned over the last 11 months, optimism in 2020 will only be punished.

Featured Image: Sorbis /