Considering how aviation has looked increasingly likely with every month of low community cases and Singapore’s general progress, surely one would wonder if travel would soon be feasible again.
But the recent spate of community infections may have just derailed all those plans and dashed hopes.
Even the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble seems set to be affected… once again, considering how there’s a condition that a seven-day rolling average of unlinked community cases of more than five would suspend the bubble.
So far, it doesn’t look very good for us. Looks like our hopes have come to a grinding standstill, much like the grounded airplanes at Changi Airport.
And so, it’s not a stretch to say that no travelling would be a particularly bitter pill to swallow, what with months of renewed hopes…
Only to see everything get destroyed by the coronavirus. Again.
Ong Ye Kung: Safe Reopening of Aviation Could Be Possible If Govts Open Up to Countries With Low Infection Rates
But it appears that all hope is not lost, and that travel may still be a distinct possibility even amidst this somewhat messed up “dystopian” era.
According to The Straits Times, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung has kept the door open for air travel in 2021 despite recent setbacks that have plagued our Little Red Dot.
In a speech made on Monday (3 May), he revealed that air travel could be possible if governments practice precaution, and if we only open up to those with a low domestic number of cases.
Measures such as testing for the virus, “bubble-wrapping” travellers and vaccinations should also be implemented.
On the other hand, places facing high infection rates should impose tightened measures.
“We are not likely to see a strong V-shaped recovery in aviation this year,” Mr Ong said. “But the start of a recovery is possible, and worth working towards.”
He also added that “vaccines are working”.
However, he did concede that it’s a difficult time to talk about such possibilities, considering the numerous variants of the COVID-19 virus that keep popping up.
Even so, he stated that such a move is imminent, despite talks being “fraught with uncertainties, risks and setbacks”.
“The opening of our borders is ultimately about connecting our countries, our cities, our businesses and our people—ensuring that global cooperation and exchange continues,” he said. “It is what humanity desires and instinctively seeks.”
He also brought up Singapore and Hong Kong, two aviation hubs that double as international financial service centers.
In order to continue in such roles, they would need air travel to become a normality again.
What About the TTSH Cluster?
Talks of such nature would surely be impeded by the latest TTSH cluster, but Mr Ong did not shy away from the topic.
Despite the setback, he remained positive.
“But fortunately, and as of now, unlinked cases in the community have remained low. Perhaps that is why we call them bubbles, because they are by nature a bit fragile, given the circumstances we are in,” he added.
Mr Ong has also reiterated the need to work on “mutual recognition of vaccination certificates”.
“A no-regret step to do now is for countries and regions to start work on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates,” he said.
“What to do after recognition is a policy question that can be decided on later, when more evidence and data become available.”
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau concurs with Mr Ong’s statement, stating that we shouldn’t get discouraged by a few obstacles.
“We must plan for the best and prepare for the worst. We shouldn’t be discouraged by some of the hiccups, but rather, we should learn from all the experiences as we move forward.”
SG-HK Travel Bubble
According to reports, the travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong is finally going to un-burst itself and become reality on 26 May.
After the bubble’s anticlimactic pause—which absolutely no one liked—the travel bubble’s reintroduction will come with stricter conditions for eligibility.
Travellers will have to have stayed in Singapore or Hong Kong for two weeks before departing for the other city, excluding time spent in quarantine or on a stay-home notice.
If you are a Hong Kong-er, you are also required to complete a full course of COVID-19 vaccination before departing for Singapore unless you are medically unsuitable, as part of the Hong Kong Government’s drive to encourage vaccination.
Travellers from Singapore, meanwhile, will have to install Hong Kong’s LeaveHomeSafe app prior to departure, the equivalent of TraceTogether. Except Hong Kong’s app doesn’t have that fancy alliteration.
However, it should be noted that the condition, which dictates that a seven-day rolling average of unlinked community cases of more than five would suspend the bubble, remains unchanged.
So unless the TTSH clusters die down…
We may yet see the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble bursting for the second time in a row.
For anyone wishing desperately to hop onto a plane, I hope that that does not happen.
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