Hong Kong puts Australia on 'travel bubble' shortlist

The Hong Kong government says that COVID tests would be needed at both ends of the trip.

By David Flynn, September 8 2020
Hong Kong puts Australia on 'travel bubble' shortlist

Hong Kong is considering opening a 'travel bubble' with Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and eight other countries on the basis on Covid-19 testing at both ends of the journey.

Speaking at a Government press conference in Hong Kong this afternoon, commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah indicated that early discussions were already underway with each country to determine what testing systems could be put in place for arriving and departing passengers.

“We need to ensure that a coronavirus test – that is mutually recognised – can be carried out before travelling, and another verification is needed after arrival," the South China Morning Post reports Yau as saying.

"Our health authorities would then proceed to further discussion with those countries,” he added.

Candidates for Hong Kong's travel bubbles

Countries under consideration for the COVID-safe corridors are dotted around Asia, the Pacific and Europe where the pandemic is "under better control", Yau noted.

The complete list of Hong Kong's travel bubble candidates is: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand Vietnam, France, Germany and Switzerland; bilateral talks are already underway with Japan and Thailand.

“These are places with which we have made initial contact, but whether travel bubbles can be established... would depend on a host of factors, including the epidemic situation and its containment in respective places," Yau elaborated.

“Of course the timetable will be a matter of bilateral agreement between Hong Kong and partnering countries. It all depends on how ready and comfortable both parties are with the situation."

However, Yau stressed "there will be no compromise on any sort of risk." Should the city's health authorities "at the very last moment" voice reservations on opening the bubble, "I think we would of course err on the safe side."

The news was accompanied by a relaxation of social distancing rules following a continued drop in COVID-19 cases. The South China Morning Post reports that the city listed only six new Covid-19 cases today, marking the lowest number of daily infections for more than two months, since five cases were recorded on July 3.

While held out as an early hope for restarting travel and tourism, travel bubbles have proven elusive to establish and prone to the unexpected spikes, surges and, in the worst case, second waves of the pandemic.

The 'trans-Tasman bubble' between Australia and New Zealand, first flagged in May, has suffered setbacks after outbreaks in Victoria and then Auckland.

First vaccines due early 2021?

The Australian government has committed $1.7 billion to backing two vaccines with the intent to offer free injections to all Australians from early 2021, pending successful trials.

An estimated 3.8 million doses of the promising Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine, now in broad 'phase 3' trials, would be available the first two months of 2021 for vulnerable Australians and front-line healthcare workers.

The deal also covers another vaccine under development by the University of Queensland, although this remains in early ‘phase 1’ clinical trials and, pending approval, is not expected to be ready until mid-2021.

Around 84 million doses of both coronavirus vaccines would be produced across 2021, with most manufacturing done at Melbourne’s CSL.

The high production quantity is partly due to the need for two injections of either vaccine: an initial dose would be followed by a booster dose within weeks.

Around 30 million doses would also be distributed among many of Australia’s Pacific island neighbours and some South-East Asian countries.

Access to vaccine shots would allow Australia's borders to reopen, although passports may need to be accompanied by a vaccination certificate, along with passenger testing both on departure and arrival.

“To fully open the international border without any quarantining or any restrictions probably will require a vaccine to be able to adequately protect vulnerable people in the community and if we get enough vaccine to develop sufficient herd immunity,” Department of Health secretary Professor Brendan Murphy has previously remarked.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Hong Kong sadly just doesn’t have the same appeal as it used to. Don’t want to fly to Hong Kong just to end up in Beijing for no justified reason.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 153

I do agree that Hong Kong isn't as glamorous of a travel destination anymore but not for your reasons. Granted you could say I'm biased because I spent my childhood in Hong Kong but overall the political fears are vastly overplayed for the common man. If you don't get into politics, which to be frank, I don't see many tourists or visitors doing, then things are completely normal. My parents and relatives don't feel anything has changed since the law except that it is now free of protests and much more appealing of a destination than during the movement. I do feel though that I would much rather choose Singapore to visit or transit. Hong Kong just seems way too crowded these days and the streets aren't as clean as Singapore. Overall, I still love Hong Kong for its mix of old and new but I feel that the dream, fairy land metropolis that people imagine of Hong Kong is much better matched with Singapore. 

12 Aug 2019

Total posts 13

Just wish Singapore was bigger... :)

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 345

HKG is great for transit to pick up LX First to ZRH  or CX First to/from JFK (with the usual Aussie pilots!) Much more civilized than SIN and much much better lounges with better aircon than SIN! Any reason to AVOID SIN and transit HKG!!!!!

KW72 Banned
KW72 Banned

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 244

Bring it on! At least something to look forward to. 

Can't help but feel this is all wishful thinking though until the government removes its draconian outbound travel ban and island prison mentality. Hong Kong could allow Australians in, but it would be a pointless bubble if you can't even leave the country on a voluntary basis. 

15 Aug 2018

Total posts 27

Well that’s great but we’ll have to get our grandstanding provincialist Premiers and their backside covering public servants to change their minds. Not hopeful when near zero case states can’t even open up to each other. 

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 271

I'd rather support our Kiwi neighbors at this time to be honest! 

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 235

So would I but I don't see this an an either-or proposition, happy to have both on offer. I actually suspect that any 'bubbles' to HK and NZ will both open around the same time but when that ism, who knows? Maybe early 2021? At least this is good news that it's being discussed between HK and AU governments, they can lay the groundwork and set up things like approved testing in Australia because this is something that I suspect most airlines will require before long. Every step, no matter how small, is a good one because it gets us closer to safe travel again.


13 Sep 2013

Total posts 116

Travel Bubbles!?! LOL

07 May 2020

Total posts 151

Yeah. Travel bubbles...LOL even louder. If you can't even travel between states in Australia, travel bubbles with other nations will simply not happen. How much longer do people want go on about this delusion. And don't forget, this deadly virus is going to respect our desire for a Christmas travel bonanza. Hardly. What if the virus decides that it hasn't finished it's job by then and takes a leaf out of Dan's strategy and decides to extend it's reign of domination until next Easter, or maybe next Thanksgiving.

Dragonair - The Marco Polo Club

10 May 2015

Total posts 12

Wouldn't trust where my biological information is going to with the Hong Kong check... The HK govt purposefully chose a PRC based company to handle all the testing for some arbitrary reason. Doesn't that raise any eyebrows? 

Bring it on! I just want to step on a plane!

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 May 2020

Total posts 21

There is a very good reason why  Aust. Govt's  SmartTraveller website has the following advice for China AND Hong Kong - "Do not travel".  At this point in time, your travel  "bubble" could very easily - and without any warning or justification - become a  "detention facility". "Hostage diplomacy"  is very popular in this part of the World ......

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Hong Kong puts Australia on 'travel bubble' shortlist