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Hong Kong resumes travel bubble discussions with Thailand and Japan



PHOTO: Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash

Hong Kong’s commerce chief, Edward Yau, says the Special Administrative Region is once again chatting to Thailand authorities, and Japan, regarding the possible formation of “travel bubbles”. The talks were suspended last month as Hong Kong battled a third wave ‘spike’ of the Covid-19 virus. Now, the idea of mutually beneficial travel agreements is back on the table, subject to a agreed testing procedures to screen travellers for the virus, in both directions.

A report in the Bangkok Post says Yau made the announcement while speaking at a webinar hosted by the Hong Kong Productivity Council. He says that, while Hong Kong is in travel bubble talks with up to 10 countries, talks are at a more advanced stage with Thailand and Japan.

“It may be some time yet before any arrangements are put in place, as all countries involved continue to monitor the development of the pandemic.”

He noted that travellers would have to take Covid-19 tests that are “mutually recognised”, and the test results would be sent to the destination country, via the airlines, for confirmation before they were being allowed to board.

“Once landed, the local health department could demand further testing.”

Last year, around 2.3 million Hong Kong residents visited Japan, compared to just 20 in July this year. Hong Kong has not been able to receive any foreign visitors since a ban on international arrivals implemented in March, at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak regionally. Repatriating Hong Kongers are required to undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine. In June, Hong Kong saw a 99% drop in visitor numbers year-on-year, with numbers down 90% in the first 6 months of the year, compared to the same period in 2019.

Hong Kong is emerging from a small third wave of the virus, after a spike in new cases last month saw it record over 100 new cases a day for 12 days. However, after the re-introduction of some restrictions, including restaurants only offering take-away food after 6pm, numbers have started to fall again.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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