Hong Kong and Singapore said Monday they would launch an air travel bubble in May, months after an initial arrangement that would allow tourists to fly between both cities without having to serve quarantine was postponed.
Flights will begin from May 26. Visitors will not have to go through the quarantine as long as they fulfill the conditions of travelling within the air travel bubble.
Hong Kong and Singapore had previously announced the launch of an air travel bubble in November last year but shelved the plan days before it was to start after Hong Kong saw a surge in COVID-19 infections.
The air travel bubble comes as both Singapore and Hong Kong seek to boost tourism amid the pandemic, which has seen various countries close borders and declining air travel.
"The two governments have reached consensus on the latest arrangement and will put in place more stringent public health protocols in response to the latest epidemic development," said Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau in a statement.
"Our goal remains striking a right balance between public health and travel convenience so that the public will rest assured while maintaining certainty."
Travelers from Hong Kong will need to be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to departing for Singapore, although this requirement will not apply to those going from Singapore to Hong Kong. They are also required to have spent 14 days in each city before travelling, with compulsory quarantine periods not counting towards this period.
Under the new arrangement, the air travel bubble would be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of local, untraceable coronavirus cases in either city exceed five.
It will only be resumed after the threshold of unlinked cases has been met, with three consecutive days of three or less unlinked infections and a daily moving average of not more than five such cases on the third day.
Travelers from both cities will also be expected to download the tracing apps of the destination.
"I am happy that Hong Kong got the COVID-19 situation under control. It has been a long few months, but the conditions are now ripe again to re-launch the ATB," said Singapore's Minister for Transport, Ong Ye Kung, in a statement.
"Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next one month, so that we can launch the first flights smoothly. It is a significant ATB between two aviation and financial services hubs in Asia," he said.
The safe travel arrangement is the most ambitious since Australia and New Zealand's own bubble. However, the opening up of another country to Singapore quarantine-free may cause complications to planned re-opening of Australia and New Zealand airspace.
When asked where the next country to be granted a quarantine-free air bridge, last week Australia's Transport Minister Michael McCormack had announced that Singapore was "top of the queue". New Zealand has also been in conversations with counterparts in Singapore regarding safe travel.
Meanwhile a two-way travel bubble has again been delayed in the Cook Islands following setbacks to installing a PCR lab in Rarotonga.
- Associated Press with additional reporting