Travel bubbles may promise loads of unbridled fun…
But they could also impose a whole line of risks if left unchecked.
As such, it’s imperative that countries, which have established a mutual travel bubble connection, are both “clean” and ready to go.
Essentially, this is to ensure optimal safety on both sides, and to make sure that the travel bubbles do not double as infection bubbles.
Hong Kong Having ‘Worrying’ Trend of Unlinked COVID-19 Cases & It’s Bad News for SG-HK Travel Bubble
And that’s why this particular piece of news is a worrying one.
Hong Kong authorities have warned of a “worrying” trend of purportedly unlinked COVID-19 cases, as the nation copes with more than 170 instances of respiratory illnesses.
On Friday (13 November 2020), the city’s total number of cases was brought up to 5,436, after six new COVID-19 cases were reported on the day itself. Of the six, two are imported cases, while the remainder involves two linked and unlinked cases.
The day before, 23 confirmed cases were reported, of which seven are local transmissions. Only one out of these seven cases was traceable to an earlier case.
“So this is a bit worrying because for these cases, including drivers who stayed in various districts in Hong Kong, we could not find a definite link among them. This indicates that there is still quite a bit of transmission in the community,” said Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of communicable disease branch Centre for Health Protection (CHP).
They have since implored for the public to stay vigilant amidst this crisis.
“With the high infectiousness of this virus, it is possible that we will be seeing more and more cases, whether they are linked or unlinked, in the coming days,” said Dr Chuang.
In light of current events, the government has called for the suspension of all face-to-face activities in kindergartens and childcare centres, effective from today to 27 November.
Up till Thursday (12 November) morning, the Department of Health had processed 171 upper respiratory tract infection outbreaks – 101 of which had to do with kindergartens or childcare centers.
Though the outbreaks are reportedly not affiliated with COVID-19 (based off previous tests), the situation has been described as a “worrying” one by food and health secretary Sophia Chan.
This is because the outbreaks happened “in spite of all the measures that we have put in place in the schools, including personal hygiene, mask wearing, etc”.
Should the situation fail to improve, the suspension may be extended.
Meanwhile, schools are set to remain open.
A Worrying One On More Than One Count
Lest you’re unaware, Hong Kong and Singapore are all set to establish an air travel bubble.
It was previously announced to launch on 22 November.
The warning of a “worrying” trend, however, came one day after the announcement.
This cuts a nail-biting notion on more counts than one, as travel bubble talks have previously been shown to dissipate in light of COVID-19 clusters.
Singapore’s plan to establish a travel bubble with Malaysia, for instance, was cruelly cut short when the latter experienced a spike in cases.
This was despite Singapore’s earlier willingness to commit, and Malaysia’s eagerness for the travel bubble to be incorporated.
According to CNN, travel bubbles genuinely depend on its participating countries’ healthcare systems, amidst other factors.
“Travel bubbles are extremely complex to implement, much greater than what people may have thought originally,” says Mario Hardy, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
“Each respective destination needs to have well tested and tried protocols and the understanding that visitors from each country will respect them. They also need to ensure that they have a robust health care system to handle any potential resurgences of cases as well as good contact tracing capabilities.”
Here’s the thing: the travel bubble might be suspended for two weeks if the 7-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked COVID-19 cases is more than 5 in Singapore or Hong Kong.
So far, everything’s okay in Singapore but if it gets out of control in Hong Kong, those people who’ve spent over $1,000 for a ticket to Hong Kong might be struggling for a refund soon.
Travel Bubble Between Singapore and Hong Kong
In line with the rules of the agreement, there will be one flight per day, with 200 passengers each way, into each city.
The number of airplane trips is set to double from 7 December onwards.
During the duration of their overseas stay, travelers will not need to comply with a regulated itinerary. They are free to establish their own travel purposes, and do not need to serve the otherwise mandatory quarantine or stay-home notice.
However, in order to qualify for the flight, prospective passengers must attain a negative result on COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests inside 72 hours of their set departure time.
Featured Image: Yung Chi Wai Derek / Shutterstock.com