Why HK could not get a better air bubble deal?

April 28, 2021 11:04
Changi Airport in Singapore  Photo: Reuters

Bilateral deals are not always fair when it comes to Hong Kong.

A case in point is the long-awaited air bubble arrangement with Singapore. For a change, Hong Kong visitors to Singapore must be fully vaccinated but there is no such requirement for Singaporean visitors to Hong Kong.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau said it was a requirement initiated by the Hong Kong government as an additional protection to Hong Kong travelers.

Likewise, the Return2HK scheme, previously covering only Guangdong province and Macau, will allow Hong Kong residents staying anywhere in mainland China to return to the city from April 29 without the need to quarantine.

But Hong Kong people who fancy crossing the border to China would still have to be subject to two-week quarantine. There is no timeline as to when such restriction would be lifted.

That begs the obvious question: why would Hong Kong people want to take the vaccine, given they can only travel to Singapore, but not China, without quarantine?

To give the benefit of doubts, Hong Kong will talk to other countries for a similar air bubble arrangement with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Thailand. But we shall wait to see if Hong Kong would be able to seal fairer bilateral deals.

Even if we could go to Singapore next month, it would be costly.

A pre-pandemic economy return ticket to Singapore would be below HK$3,000 in a low season, but a Cathay Pacific first-day ticket is said to cost more than HK$8,000.

Assuming the air-bubble ticket price would stablise at around HK$4,000 in the first month after the scheme started, there would be extra medical cost to consider under the air bubble arrangement.

Before arrival, Hong Kong visitors would need to take the covid-19 test for HK$240 and they would have to take the test at Changi Airport for S$200 (HK$1,170). And if the stay is more than 72 hours, we would have to take the test in Singapore again and then again when landing at the Hong Kong International airport for HK$499.

A five-day Singapore tour under the air bubble is priced at between HK$12,000 and HK$13,000, or at least double that of the pre-covid-19 period, not to mention the extra medical costs.

And imagine we would have to wear masks and keep the TraceTogether mobile app, the Singapore version of LeavehomeSafe, active throughout the trip.

Perhaps we can’t complain much because at least we can go outside Hong Kong to breathe, although it is a hotter place.

But the kind of arrangement made me think twice about going to Singapore, although I would be qualified to go after my second jab scheduled on Mother’s Day.

Let’s wait for a better deal.

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EJ Insight writer