FLASHBACK: November 2020.
Authorities in Hong Kong and Singapore announced a “travel bubble”. People could travel between Hong Kong and Singapore, without the need for quarantine, and without any restrictions.
There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship. All that was needed was COVID-19 testing.
Stir crazy, people rushed to book plane tickets, dust off their luggage bags and book hotel rooms. The economies of the two cities were hungry to receive thousands of new guests into their restaurants, malls and spas.
At the last moment, a Hong Kong COVID-19 spike burst the travel bubble.
But, it’s okay. All is not lost.
The authorities said they would arrange for a new travel bubble soon.
Fast forward to last month.
Authorities in Hong Kong and Singapore announced another travel bubble, for May. Travellers would not need to quarantine, and could travel for any purpose, provided they were vaccinated.
Again, airline tickets were snapped up. There was a mad rush to book accommodation. Everyone was all set, eager and waiting.
But a recent spike in Singapore may threaten to pop this second bubble.
Singapore announced that the bubble might be deflated if the threshold of a seven-day moving average of five or fewer unlinked community cases in either city is breached.
Arrivals would be subject to local COVID-19 restrictions in the respective markets, such as downloading a contact tracing app and wearing masks. Any travellers who contract the virus will be required to bear their own medical costs.
If the coronavirus situation does not deteriorate in either city, flights are expected to increase from one a day to two per day into each city. However, should the weekly average of confirmed cases exceed five per day on either side, the bubble would be suspended for two weeks, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Economic Development and Commerce, Edward Yau, said, mixing his metaphors.
At the moment, Singapore is close to the threshold of five community cases per day.
We all have to watch this number carefully, and take precautions. Our economy, and many small and large businesses, depend on our vigilance.
Never, in the field of human disease, has so much been owed by so few to so many.
Adrian Tan is a lawyer and author.