Cathay Pacific News Singapore Airlines Travel Bubbles

“High chance” Singapore – Hong Kong ATB launch will be delayed again

The much-anticipated all-purpose travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong looks likely to get its latest setback, with an official all but confirming that the launch will be postponed again.

With the recent emergence of COVID-19 clusters in Singapore, the largest being linked to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport, we’ve already seen a tightening of social and work restrictions with a roll back from ‘Phase 3’ to ‘Phase 2’ rules in the city, limiting interactions, group sizes and some activities between 8th May and 30th May.

There are now 12 clusters in the city and yesterday 24 community cases were recorded, four of which could not be linked.

Singapore has also today announced it is moving to “Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)” from Sunday 16th May through to Sunday 13th June, with gatherings reduced to two people and dine-in suspended at restaurants and hawker centres. Work from home will also become the default and the government is urging everyone to stay home as much as possible.

“High chance” the ATB will be delayed

SCMP is reporting that at a press briefing today, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said there was now a “high chance” the bubble’s launch date would have to be postponed, against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases in Singapore.

The formal suspension mechanism for the ATB triggers when an average unlinked case total of more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong is reached, based on a seven-day rolling average.

The ATB concept is based on designated ‘bubble flights’ between the two cities operated by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific

While that threshold has not (yet) been reached, rising community case numbers in Singapore, including a recent increase in unlinked infections looks set to prompt authorities to postpone the launch of the ATB from its latest proposed kickoff on 26th May 2021.

When the bubble’s launch was last postponed, the threshold had also not strictly been breached, though the unlinked case numbers were heading in a clear direction and had the arrangement gone ahead, a postponement would have kicked in on its second day of operation.

With Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures being brought in until at least mid-June, the ATB arrangement with Hong Kong visitors arriving here obviously makes little sense.