The government said on Thursday that Singapore had agreed to set up a so-called travel bubble with Hong Kong, so residents can fly between the two places without having to be quarantined.
Announcing the agreement, which has been reached in principle, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said there would be no restrictions on the purpose of travel, but a number of conditions would have to be fulfilled.
He told a press conference that travellers would first have to take a Covid test recognised in each place, and no transit passengers would be allowed on the same flights as the "bubble" passengers.
But he said details – such as how close to the flights the tests would have to be carried out, and which airlines can get involved – are yet to be hammered out.
Yau said the two governments hope the scheme could be launched within weeks.
He said mechanisms, guided by health experts from both sides, would be put in place to adjust the scheme if necessary.
“What if circumstances turn worse? Of course… these arrangements could be adjusted, could be relaxed if the situation improves, or could be reduced in order to minimise the risk. Or....suspended in circumstances where we don’t feel comfortable,” he said.
A press release issued by the Hong Kong government quoted Singapore’s Minister for Transport as saying the number of infections remains low on both sides, and this gives them “the confidence to mutually and progressively open our borders to each other.”
“It is a safe, careful, but significant step forward to revive air travel, and provide a model for future collaboration with other parts of the world," Ong Ye Kung was quoted as saying.
Yau earlier said that Hong Kong was in talks with 11 countries over possible travel bubble arrangements. He did not give any update on the discussions, saying only that “different countries have different considerations of their own” and things will proceed “whenever the situation allows”.
The International Air Transport Association welcomed Hong Kong and Singapore's announcement, saying the move will help re-open borders and restore the connectivity that jobs and economic activities depend on.