After much anticipation, travel-starved Singapore residents finally have a chance to spread their wings and fly beyond our little red dot. The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) is finally officially confirmed and details are finally released. From 22 November 2020, Singaporeans can travel to Hong Kong for leisure. This is the only leisure travel destination currently endorsed by the government; all other travel arrangements to other countries have been restricted for official and business purposes.
Here are the 8 things you need to know about the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) before you book that ticket and hop off our little island.
#1 You Need To Apply And Get Swabbed (At Least Twice) For The Air Travel Bubble (ATB)
Firstly, everyone residing in Singapore, rejoice! The Air Travel Bubble (ATB) is for everyone (locals and foreigners) who have been staying in Singapore in the past 14 days, except for Work Permit and S Pass holders working in the construction, marine shipyard and process industries.
While Singaporeans don’t have to apply for a travel visa to Hong Kong, foreigners (depending on nationality) may still have to apply for a travel visa.
All Singapore travellers planning to apply for Air Travel Bubble must take Pre-Departure Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test. The test must be taken within 72 hours of your departure. It is not valid if you take it more than 3 days before your flight. You will only be approved for travel if your results for COVID-19 are negative.
If you are travelling before 1 December 2020, you have to apply for approval via the SafeTravel website to take this pre-departure PCR test 7 days before your departure. You will need a confirmed flight ticket to Hong Kong to apply for this approval. After receiving the approval via email, you have to arrange to take the test at any of the MOH-approved swab providers.
After 1 December 2020, you can arrange to take the test directly at the swab providers without applying for prior approval.
Prior to departing for Hong Kong, you also have to submit a health declaration to Hong Kong authorities within 48 hours of arrival. Please save the given QR code as it will be checked during your arrival and temperature screening. You should also book your post-arrival PCR test during this time.
Estimated Cost of PCR swab test (Singapore): $200.
Once you arrive in Hong Kong International Airport, you will go through the ATB designated lanes through the airport to have your temperature screened and to take your post-arrival PCR test. You may only leave the airport after your test results are negative.
At the time of writing, the website for booking the post-arrival PCR test and the cost details of the PCR test are not released. You may check the dedicated Hong Kong ATB site for details.
#2 There Are Designated Flights (And No Airfare Deals) For Air Travel Bubble
Hold your horses before you booking the next cheapest flight to Hong Kong, to qualify under Air Travel Bubble (ATB), you must book the designated ATB flights.
These are the flights by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways (the national carriers of Singapore and Hong Kong, respectively). The ATB will start with one flight a day into each city with a quota of 200 travellers per flight and increase to two flights a day from Dec 7.
At the time of writing, there are no promotional flight prices for these flights (SQ890, SQ891, CX734 and CX759).
Estimated Cost of Designated Flights: more than $1000 roundtrip (an SQ flight departing on 25 November 2020 and returning on 30 November 2020 costs $1,079.80, at time of writing)
#3 You Need To Abide By Hong Kong’s Safe Distancing Measures
Similar to Singapore, Hong Kong has also imposed safe distancing measures such as mandatory temperature screening and wearing of face masks in public spaces.
Here are some of the social distancing measures in place in Hong Kong that you should take note of:
- You cannot gather in groups of more than four persons in public places, except people from the same household.
- For dining out, the maximum number is six per table, and four per table for bars or pubs and clubs or nightclubs. Note that food and drinks may only be served and eaten until 2 a.m. at night.
- Local tours can go up to 30 people per tour and a maximum of 50% capacity in the vehicle.
- You are not required to wear face masks when exercising in outdoor spaces (like parks), indoor sports premises and public skating rinks.
- Cinemas are open but seats cannot be occupied four consecutive seats in the same row and food and drinks may not be served.
In general, a rule of thumb is to keep your group of friends and family to a group of four or lesser and wear your face masks as long as you not eating or drinking.
#4 Travel Attractions In Hong Kong Are Open For Tourists
With all these safe distancing measures, you may be thinking if the tourist attractions are still open. The good news is that most (if not all the prominent ones) are open. The not-so-good news is that there may be limited capacity and you may need to book in advance to secure your slot.
For example, Hong Kong Disneyland recommends that you make your reservations 7 days in advance and the park is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays (except for public holidays and designated days).
For the foodies, you may be in time for Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival which is ongoing until 15 December 2020. While some of the activities have moved online and to delivery options, dining-in offers are still plenty for the epicurean.
#5 The Air Travel Bubble Can Be Suspended Anytime
If all the above restrictions have not dampened your enthusiasm for travelling, there’s one tiny caveat that you need to be aware of: the air travel bubble can be suspended at any time by the governments.
If the average of the daily number of unlinked COVID-19 cases is more than five in either Singapore or Hong Kong, the ATB will be suspended for two weeks.
On the last day of the two-week suspension period, if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked COVID-19 is five or less, the ATB arrangement will resume.
So once you booked your flight and made all the arrangements, pray that there will be no sudden spike in COVID-19 unlinked cases.
#6 You Can’t Be Insured (Yet)
At the time of writing, none of the travel insurance providers is covering claims related to COVID-19. In light of the recent confirmation of the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB), it is possible that the insurers will review their policies to include coverage for the ATB.
Prior to COVID-19, Aviva’s Travel Plus and Travel Prestige policies are one of the most generous, allowing you to claim for trip cancellations for any reason for up to 50% cost.
#7 You Have To Foot The Cost of Medical Treatment If You Contract COVID-19 In Hong Kong
Given the lack of insurance coverage, if you contract COVID-19 during your stay in Hong Kong, you are responsible for the full cost of medical treatment in Hong Kong.
If you somehow manage to return to Singapore before showing COVID-19 symptoms, you are allowed to tap on Government subsidies and MediShield Life/ Integrated Shield Plans coverage if you are a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident.
#8 Return To Singapore Under Air Travel Bubble (ATB)
To return to Singapore, Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents need not apply for anything but Long-Term Pass holders (e.g. employment pass holders) will need to apply for entry approval from MOM (for work pass holders) and MOE (for student pass holders).
To return under the ATB, you need to stay in Hong Kong and/or Singapore for 14 days consecutively. This allows you to return via the designated ATB flights and proceed with your activities after arrival without serving a Stay-Home Notice (SHN).
For ATB returns, you need to take a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours before your ATB flight at one of the testing institutions recognised by the Hong Kong Government, and obtain a test result certificate in English, certifying your result is negative.
If you are returning via a non-designated flight, you have to serve a 7-day SHN at your own residence upon entry into Singapore and undergo a COVID-19 PCR test during the SHN period. You don’t have to take a pre-departure PCR test for a non-designated flight.
If you are still keen to travel with all these in mind, go forth and book your Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific Airways flight to Hong Kong. Just be prepared to pay for multiple swab tests and undiscounted flight tickets to enjoy travelling in an Air Travel Bubble. For travel-starved Singaporeans, this may be still worth it.
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