Bags were packed, planes were probably even being fueled up, but just hours before the first flights under the new Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble were due to depart, plans for the safe and quarantine free travel bubble were temporarily been shelved.
Countries are taking unique and different approaches to risks associated with travel, with some opening up for all, while others use more novel systems via travel bubbles, where only visitors from certain countries are able to visit, based on similar levels of covid-19 in both places.
Bursting The Travel Bubble
With relatively strong safety in both regions, Hong Kong and Singapore announced reciprocal travel bubbles earlier in this month, where visitors could once again enjoy leisure travel, without any major quarantine.
You just needed a test before departure, and to maintain social distancing rules. Singapore added a second layer of testing, but with rapid results, quarantine was only expected to be one day. For restaurants, shops and businesses in each city, it was the news they’d been waiting for – customers, planes full of them!
With pent up demand, all the flights sold out for weeks, almost instantly.
But sadly, as the first flights were due to depart on Sunday November 22nd, the tough decision was made to pause plans, amid recent worries with rising case counts in Hong Kong, according to SCMP.
As of now, there’s going to be a pause of at least two weeks, before plans go ahead, and will be reassessed based on the current situation in each city. The burst bubbles illustrates the challenges of these ideally sound principles for travel not quite being easy to enact, or dependable for travelers to buy into.
Travelers can still move between the two, but would be required to quarantine under current, extremely strict rules until bubble plans resume. In other words – for leisure travelers, plans are on hold. For airlines keen to cash in on sold out flights once again, it’s yet another bump in a long and winding road to recovery.
Singapore previously announced travel bubble plans with Australia, via an ‘air travel pass’ program, but with outbound travel barred in Australia, no one is really able to go. With a race for vaccine distribution moving into high gear, it will be interesting to watch whether any travel bubbles actually fully bubble, or whether good news of wider travel agreements will come first.