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Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble continues as Hong Kong Covid cases rise

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Singapore Airlines crew members at Changi International Airport in Singapore on Oct. 24, 2020.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Singapore and Hong Kong will go ahead with their air travel arrangements on Sunday as planned, but there will be additional precautionary measures imposed as new coronavirus cases in Hong Kong rise.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced Saturday that all arriving passengers from Hong Kong will now be required to take an additional Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test upon arrival.

They will also need to self-isolate in their place of residence — be it a hotel or home — as they wait for the results which will take about six to eight hours, the aviation authority said.

To be clear, all passengers from Hong Kong under the air travel bubble agreement were already required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test and obtain a negative test result before departing for Singapore.

“As mentioned, travellers will now undergo a further on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test,” according to the latest release from CAAS.

The initial air travel bubble agreement announced on Nov. 11 did not require any isolation of passengers from Hong Kong upon arrival.

Hong Kong’s ‘new wave’

Hong Kong reported Friday that the number of new daily cases rose to 26, and most of them were local infections.

“We have probably entered into a new wave of cases,” the city’s Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said in a press briefing on Friday, citing experts from the Centre for Health Protection.

She said the situation was “severe” and urged citizens to stop all unnecessary gatherings.

The government met late Friday to finalize other contingency measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus, and will not rule out more stringent restrictions, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a Facebook post.

Hong Kong imposed new restrictions on Saturday, including the banning of clubs and party rooms, as well as prohibiting live performances and dancing in bars and pubs. The government announced earlier that primary schools will be suspended for two weeks from Monday.

The Singapore and Hong Kong health authorities are in close contact and monitoring the situation.

Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore

Travel authorities from both sides have always said the deal will be suspended if the Covid-19 situation in either city deteriorates.

The Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble agreement is due to start on Nov. 22 with a single flight daily into each city, limited to a maximum of 200 passengers per flight. The number of flights will increase only if the spread of Covid-19 in both cities remains under control.

Singapore’s aviation authority reiterated on Saturday that the air travel bubble “will be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases exceeds five per day.”

“The figure for Hong Kong is currently at 2.14,” CAAS said. “The threshold will be exceeded if there are more than 22 unlinked cases in Hong Kong over the next three days. This will trigger a two-day notice period, after which suspension will come into effect.”

“The Singapore and Hong Kong health authorities are in close contact and monitoring the situation,” the aviation authority said.


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UK expected to announce it will lift lockdown soon — with conditions attached

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A man shops at a store on the High Street in East Ham on November 14, 2020 in London, England.

Hollie Adams | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce Monday that a nationwide lockdown in England will be lifted in early December. However, the lifting of restrictions that have seen leisure and hospitality venues and most shops close will come with conditions attached.

Prime Minister Johnson is expected to announce to parliament on Monday that lockdown will end on Dec. 2, almost month after a second lockdown was imposed. He will address the country later in the afternoon.

He is expected to detail what restrictions will be imposed after the lockdown is lifted, including a likely return to the “three-tier system,” with differing degrees of rules imposed on areas of the country depending on their number of coronavirus infections.

Tiered system explained

The U.K.’s three-tier system of local Covid-19 alert levels, introduced in mid-October, saw areas classified as either “medium,” “high” or “very high.”

In “very high” level areas, pubs and bars, gyms, betting shops and casinos were closed. Those in a “high” level areas were not allowed to mix with other households or meet up unless outside. Meanwhile, the “medium” level banned groups of more than six people meeting up and pubs and restaurants had to close at 10 p.m.

Whether or not bars, restaurants and gyms will be allowed to reopen on Dec. 2 is likely to depending on these alert levels.

Coronavirus case numbers stabilizing

The government introduced a second lockdown early in November in a bid to curb a second wave of infections. It said at the time that it hoped to lift the restrictions on Dec. 2, although this would be depending on Covid case numbers.  

The U.K. has recorded over 1.5 million coronavirus cases to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, giving it the third-highest number of recorded infections in Europe, after France and Spain. It has reported 55,120 coronavirus-related deaths.

There are signs that the number of new infections have started to stabilize in the country, however. The latest R number (the number of people that an infected person could be expected to pass the virus onto, on average) is estimated to have fallen to between 1 to 1.1, with a daily infection growth rate range of 0% to +2% as of 20 November 2020, government data shows.

On Sunday, a further 18,662 new cases were reported in the U.K. and over the previous seven days, there were 142,747 confirmed cases. But that was almost 20% fewer cases than had been reported in the seven-day period between 9-15 November.

The British government is under pressure to get business back to as normal sooner rather than later, given the damage to the economy. The U.K. economy grew by 15.5% in the third quarter, according to preliminary figures published earlier in November, after a 19.8% plunge in the previous quarter following the first national lockdown. The country’s second lockdown is likely to hit growth for the final three months of the year.

There has also been pressure on politicians to detail the planned restrictions for the holiday period. Devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to decide a common plan alongside England so that families across the U.K. are able to meet.


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