Kin Cheung / AP
The agreement to allow air passengers between Hong Kong and Singapore to waive quarantine was postponed after Hong Kong announced a jump in coronavirus cases.
Hong Kong on Saturday announced a delay of at least two weeks for the balloon, as the city confirmed 43 new cases – including 13 cases that officials failed to track.
The balloon, which was originally scheduled to begin on Sunday, will allow a limited number of air passengers to avoid quarantine. To qualify, passengers must pass two coronavirus tests – both before departure and on arrival – and fly on one of the selected number of flights.
Both cities currently require most travelers to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Hong Kong’s Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau, said the postponement was the “responsible path” forward, the Associated Press reported.
“For any scheme to be successful, they must meet the condition of protecting public health, and also make sure that both parties feel comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” Yau said.
Yau said the introduction of the balloon would be reviewed early next month, Reuters reported.
Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post that the delay was “a sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us”.
“I can fully understand the frustration and frustration of travelers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to postpone from the point of view of public health,” he wrote.
The South China Morning Post said the plan would allow up to 200 people to fly each day without a quarantine period.
As part of the agreement, both Hong Kong and Singapore had agreed to suspend the program for two weeks if the number of local untraceable cases exceeded five at a moving seven-day average. As of Saturday, Hong Kong is almost four, according to the AP.
Hong Kong, along with Singapore, was praised by public health officials for its response to the start of the pandemic. In recent days, however, the city has seen a surge in new infections.
At least one health official has warned of an impending “fourth wave” of coronavirus cases, Bloomberg News reported, adding that more social restrictions are planned to help control outbreaks.
In total, Hong Kong has confirmed more than 5,500 cases of coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. Singapore has confirmed more than 58,100 cases.