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Travel bubbles: commerce minister sounds cautious note on Hongkongers’ holiday plans

07/06/2020| 11:56:24 AM|

The protocol Hong Kong proposed is very simple – 100 per cent pre-departure testing by mutually recognised laboratories.

Hongkongers’ hopes of spending their summer holiday abroad are still hanging in the balance, the commerce minister has told the Post, even though the city has planned to form a travel bubble with Thailand.

In an exclusive interview, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah struck a cautious note on the possibility of forming travel bubbles with countries that have successfully contained the coronavirus during the peak travel season.

When a travel bubble is formed between Hong Kong and another region, city residents with a valid health certificate stating they are free of the coronavirus will be exempt from mandatory quarantine while visiting that destination.

“It’s hard to say. If both sides are satisfied [with the conditions], I think individual small bubbles may be created. But they will not be so extensive,” Yau said.

Last Monday, the Thai government announced its decision to set up a special cross-border travel arrangement with five economies, including Hong Kong.

From last Wednesday, a handful of short-stay business travelers from Hong Kong have been allowed into Thailand and they will need to be tested for Covid-19 before departure and on arrival, according to Xinhua news agency.

The Hong Kong government had earlier said a team would start discussing the travel arrangements with Thai authorities in the coming week or two, raising hopes that both sides might try to work out a quota system to allow tourists to visit each other’s regions without having to undergo mandatory quarantine.

Yau said the city had been carefully picking its travel bubble partners. Key considerations included the pandemic situation at the destinations, the foreign government’s ability to contain the contagion, and its public health protocol.

“The protocol Hong Kong proposed is very simple – 100 per cent pre-departure testing by mutually recognised laboratories,” he said.

He said Thailand and Hong Kong were willing to explore an arrangement because their pandemic situations were comparable.

He suggested if a bubble could run smoothly for a week or two, the authorities could consider giving travel quotas to tourists such as tour groups.

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TAGS: summer holiday | travel bubble | travel arrangement | business traveler
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