• Bloomberg

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A quarantine-free air travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will open on May 26, the governments said Monday, confirming a long-awaited reopening of connections between the two financial hubs.

To qualify for the flights, travelers from Hong Kong must have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine at least 14 days before, the government said in a statement. This is to encourage citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible, it said. Travelers from both sides can’t have visited any other places two weeks before departure. Negative COVID-19 test results must be collected within 72 hours of flying.

From May 26 to June 9, there will be one flight a day from Hong Kong to Singapore with 200 travelers per aircraft and another from Singapore to Hong Kong, with the same number of passengers allotted. From June 10, there will be two flights a day from either side.

Preparations for the travel corridor have been stop-start since an initial plan to open it last November was shelved after coronavirus cases picked up in Hong Kong. A recent plan to announce its revival was canceled last week by Singapore, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

Despite occasional flare-ups, including at a dormitory for migrant workers in Singapore last week, COVID-19 caseloads in both cities are low and life is returning to normal. Hong Kong will reopen bars later this week and lengthen restaurant opening hours, among other steps to ease social distancing. Bringing outbreaks under control was key to opening the travel bubble.

"Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next month, so that we can launch the first flights smoothly,” Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in the statement.

Hong Kong started its COVID-19 vaccination campaign in late February and had administered a total of about 1.28 million shots as of Sunday, while Singapore has done about 2.2 million doses. Hong Kong has a population of about 7.5 million people and Singapore’s is 5.7 million.

The two cities have tight restrictions on travel. Hong Kong is essentially off limits to nonresidents and even they face lengthy stays in designated quarantine facilities upon arrival, which means that many people haven’t traveled at all since the start of the pandemic more than a year ago. That’s been reflected in Cathay’s numbers: The airline flew just 598 passengers a day on average in March.

Singapore last week eased restrictions on travelers from Hong Kong, who now can stay in home isolation for seven days rather than two weeks in a government-chosen hotel. Among its efforts to open up its borders, Singapore set up an area near Changi Airport to host business travelers without them needing to quarantine, provided they don’t leave the facility.

The plan comes as other parts of the world take steps to reopen more widely for travel. The European Union will recommend loosening restrictions to allow in fully vaccinated U.S. tourists this summer, The New York Times reported. Greece is starting to allow U.S. travelers earlier if they’ve been vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The U.S. government, meanwhile, has said it won’t issue so-called vaccine passports due to privacy concerns.

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