Quarantine-free travel between Australia and Hong Kong could resume in the wake of the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble now slated to begin on May 26.
Hong Kong Commerce Secretary Edward Yau, in announcing details today of the delayed bubble with Singapore, said the scheme's framework would also be the basis for quarantine-free travel with Australia and New Zealand, and indicated discussions with those respective governments would take place.
Yau said the bubble with Singapore "signifies that gradual resumption of cross-border travel is achievable through mutual collaborations among different places."
The bubble between Asia's twin business and financial hubs was first due to start in late November 2020, but was suspended one day before it launched due to a spike in Hong Kong's coronavirus cases.
Under the new travel bubble arrangement between Singapore and Hong Kong, the link will be suspended if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked local COVID-19 cases exceed five, for either Singapore or Hong Kong.
How the Singapore-Hong Kong bubble will work
The country's 'Air Travel Bubble' (ATB) scheme will begin with one flight a day into each city, operated by their respective flag-carriers Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, with a maximum of 200 passengers on each flight.
There will be no restriction on the purpose of travel, but passengers travellers transiting through Singapore or Hong Kong will not be permitted to board these flights.
Every passenger must test negative for COVID-19 before departure and on arrival, with those tests carried out at their own expense.
In addition, Hong Kong residents travelling on a Hong Kong passport (but not that of another country) must have completed their two-jab course of COVID-19 vaccination 14 days before their flight, in a move intended to encourage people to get vaccinated.
Cathay Pacific says its Airbus A350 travel bubble flights "will be operated by pilots and cabin crew who have all been fully vaccinated."
"We believe the safe and secure bubble flights will be a milestone showcase for the opening of similar travel arrangements with other popular destinations," the airline said in a media statement.
Singapore Airlines plans to run Airbus A350s for the first two weeks of the ATB, before switching to a daily four-class Boeing 777-300ER, with all flights featuring a special inflight menu with popular local dishes of both cities.
"Passengers can look forward to popular Singapore dishes include Carrot Cake and Nasi Lemak, as well as local fare from Hong Kong such as a selection of Dim Sum, Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle, and Lotus Leaf Rice with Chicken," the airline says.
Discussions between Australia and Singapore on the prospects of a two-way travel bubble are ongoing, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack noted last week, adding that Singapore was at the top of the government's list, along with Pacific Island nations with a low risk of COVID-19 transmission,
"As vaccine rollouts happen, both here and elsewhere, that's what's going to happen," McCormack said.