The Hong Kong-Singapore Flight Corridor Is Reopening, Just as the West Sinks Back Into Another Lockdown

Effective contact tracing can help economies reopen. Who would've thought?

singapore sunrise
Kirill Petropavlov/Unsplash

The Western world is preparing for a second wave of COVID-19. Just yesterday, the United States reached its highest number of single-day coronavirus cases since July, France instituted a “COVID curfew” for 33% of its population, and the United Kingdom prepared strict new lockdown measures, which officially go into effect this weekend.

But out East, countries are headed in the opposite direction. Hong Kong and Singapore announced this week that travel will soon resume between the two city-states, as the Asian financial powerhouses work to establish a so-called “air travel bubble.” While Singapore has already managed to set up travel with some neighboring nations — Japan, Indonesia, South Korea — this is a huge breakthrough for Hong Kong. All international travelers have been banned from visiting Hong Kong since March, and returning Hong Kong residents have previously been forced to quarantine for 14 days.

Now, would-be travelers just need to pass a negative test and fly on designated planes. The reopening of this flight corridor (which is less than four hours in in the air, and one of the busiest international routes in the world) is a testament to the efforts of public health officials in each region. Both Singapore and Hong Kong have reported less than 10 cases a day, for months now, despite having populations of 5.6 and 7.4 million people, respectively.

As it turns out, an effective contact tracing system, in conjunction with social distancing and widespread respect for masks, can all help airlines open up sooner. According to Skift, shares in regional airline Cathay Pacific are up big this week, and travel in the East — which was down an astonishing 97% at one point this year — can begin to claw its way back.


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