Singapore and Hong Kong have gone their seperate ways on the long-awaited travel bubble between the two Asian cities.
While they'll continue to work towards reopening the airways on what was one of the region's busiest premium routes in pre-pandemic days, the bilateral bubble promising quarantine-free travel in both directions has well and truly burst.
The root cause is that each country has now adopted a very different strategy for dealing with Covid and seek to restart international travel on their own terms.
"Both sides are focused on keeping our populations safe and minimising the risk of imported cases," says Singapore Transport Minister S. Iswaran.
"But our strategies differ, with Singapore now taking steps to becoming a Covid-19-resilient nation. Against this backdrop, my Hong Kong counterpart, Secretary Edward Yau, and I have discussed and concluded that we will not be able to launch or sustain the air travel bubble in its present form."
Differing Covid strategies
Hong Kong continues to pursue the eradication of Covid-19 through a 'zero-infection strategy', which is a requirement for the territory to reopen borders with the mainland.
However, Singapore – after a persistent series of outbreaks and lockdowns – has shifted towards living with Covid through vaccination and ongoing testing, especially at borders for all inbound travellers, with rapid testing at local 'mass gathering events'.
While Singapore is removing the quarantine requirement for visitors from Hong Kong and Macau, Hong Kong is tightening its border control measures and will require that even vaccinated travellers from Singapore and other 'medium-risk' countries serve a 14-day quarantine period, up from the previous seven days.
"Hong Kong and Singapore remained committed to facilitating connectivity between the two places and would continue to maintain dialogue and share experiences in this respect," the Hong Kong government said in a statement.
The Singapore-Hong Kong bubble was supposed to open in November 2020, but was called off barely a day before the first flights took off following a surge in cases in Hong Kong.
A restart was eventually pushed back to May 2021, but this time it was cancelled to another Covid spike in Singapore, which flared up again in June.