Authorities will look into safeguards built into Hong Kong’s long-delayed “travel bubble” with Singapore, in the wake the community's first probable Covid-19 mutant infection, the city’s commerce chief said.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said officials were always concerned about cases involving coronavirus
variants imported into the city once travel opened up again with other regions.
Speaking on a radio program, Yau said travelers are still required to test before and after arriving at the destination, and that the scheme would only take off when the two cities have contained the outbreak for a certain period.
His remarks came after Hong Kong detected the first coronavirus
patient who was found to be an N501Y mutant strain carrier in the community, prompting health officials to quarantine 81 residents of a building in Jordan during an overnight lockdown last night.
“When discussing travel plans with other countries, we are more concerned if imported cases, especially mutated carriers, will enter our community,” said Yau, adding that all of the mutated variants recorded in Hong Kong so far had imported cases detected upon travelers’ arrival.
He promised that authorities would examine carefully policies regarding the planned quarantine-free arrangements with Singapore.
“While we will talk to other counties, we will discuss the situation with health authorities and experts at the same time. We will only do it when everyone feels safe.”
Since the second half of 2020, authorities have been discussing “travel bubbles” with regions where Covid
outbreaks are similar to Hong Kong, including Australia, Japan, Thailand and Singapore, Yau said.
The air “travel bubble” between Hong Kong and Singapore was originally scheduled for November last year, but was deferred due to a spike in infections in Hong Kong.
The scheme would have allowed people to travel between the two cities with no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship.
Travelers would be subject only to coronavirus
disease tests, without the need for quarantine or stay-home notices.