Written by Dr Ivan Chow
Christmas is coming, but the COVID-19 pandemic means that the tourists who usually start to make merry at this time of year are going to have a different Christmas. Travel restrictions implemented during the pandemic have been crucial in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping death rates low. However international travel has been severely impacted.
From November, Hong Kong and Singapore agreed to establish a bilateral Air Travel Bubble (ATB). This arrangement helps revive cross-border air travel between the two aviation hubs.
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Travel bubbles are essentially an exclusive partnership between neighbouring or nearby countries that have demonstrated considerable success in containing and combating the COVID-19 pandemic within their respective borders. These countries then go on to re-establish connections between them by opening borders and allowing people to travel freely within the zone without having the need to undergo on-arrival quarantine. There are no restrictions on travel purpose. Travellers need to be recognised negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and will not be subject to any quarantine or Stay-Home Notice requirements, or a controlled itinerary. They are required to travel on dedicated flights and no transit passengers or non-ATB travellers will be allowed on board.
Before you go, take a pre-departure PCR nucleic acid test for COVID-19 at one of the recognised testing institutions in Hong Kong, with specimen collected within 72 hours before the scheduled time of departure of your designated flight. On arrival, observe the Singapore Government's health regulations. Before going back to Hong Kong, take a pre-departure COVID-19 test at one of the designated clinics or testing centres in Singapore. Again, the specimen should be collected within 72 hours before your flight. Also, you are required to book and pay for the post-arrival COVID-19 test to be conducted at the Hong Kong airport.
- Consider purchasing health insurance for travellers.
- Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from anyone who is not from your household.
- Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom and after you have been in a public place.
- Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Do not travel with someone who is sick.
- Use options for online reservation and check-in, mobile room key, and contactless payment.
- Minimize use of areas that may lead to close contact (within 6 feet) with other people as much as possible, like break rooms, outside patios, inside lounging areas, dining areas/ kitchens, game rooms, pools, hot tubs, saunas, spas, salons, and fitness centres.
- Consider taking the stairs. Otherwise wait to use the elevator until you can either ride alone or only with people from your household.
- Request contactless delivery for any room service order.
- Choose food delivery and take-out options.
- Make sure you are up to date with your routine vaccinations, including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine.
- Wear light-coloured and long-sleeved clothes and trousers to protect the body from mosquito bites while staying outdoors.
- Apply insect repellents to exposed skin or clothing. Choose one containing DEET. Apply repeatedly whenever necessary.
- Rest in air-conditioned or well-screened rooms. Use mosquito screens or nets when the room is not air-conditioned.
- Be careful while you participate in high-risk activities like sky diving, shooting rapids, high altitude trekking etc.
- Do not swim in polluted waters, otherwise, you may get eye, ear or intestinal infections.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity under hot weather and bring along adequate water for replenishment to avoid heat stroke.
COVID-19 measures change rapidly, and you should have backup plans when you travel. You may need to prepare extra finance, insurance and holidays in case your trip is extended. If you have any medical problems, please discuss with your family doctor before travelling. If you have any discomfort after returning to Hong Kong, you should consult your doctor.
(Information from Centers for Disease Control Prevention, Tourism Commission and Centre for Health Protection)