This is what air travel looked like earlier this year
But when the pandemic hit flights were grounded. Daily trips between New York City and London dropped from 30 flights per day to 5. And the world’s busiest route from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur was cut to just 2 flights a day.
Before the slew of pandemic related restrictions. Travel and tourism accounted for about 10 percent of the global GDP. And now countries are looking for ways to restore some of that air traffic to help speed up economic recovery. So destinations are teaming up to create so-called travel bubbles. or what is also known as corridors? The airbridge is all essentially the same thing is an agreement between two destinations, two countries for a safe reopening of travel.
The critical part of a travel bubble, no 14-day quarantines on both ends. We would only go on a trip if we didn’t have to quarantine for 14 days. There’s been a lot of chatter around loosening travel restrictions but not all of them qualify as travel bubbles. For example, new york city and London discussed streamlining restrictions but it wouldn’t technically be a travel bubble. Because both cities would still have required a short quarantine.
Singapore has been one of the most active in setting up arrangements that allow quarantine free air travel between destinations. Singapore has created no quarantine options for travelers and so far seven countries have signed up. Here the steps to flying quarantine free and wide travel bubbles could be one part of reopening the global economy.
During a pandemic travel bubbles are meant to find a balance between two extremes, letting people come and go freely while risking further spread of the virus. And the opposite where your borders have aromatically closed no one in there went out where the economy is suffering enormously. Travel bubbles can safely ease countries into gradually reopening their economies. When it was first mentioned people yay that’s fantastic that’s a great solution for us to reopen. But after a lot of research people realize actually it’s not that simple. If both destinations have been successful at containing the virus, laying the groundwork can be easier. Assuming you have good control on both ends that’s one take on the list of criteria. Second, you need to have a good healthcare system in both respective destinations, so you take the box on that one.
The first type of bubble Singapore has rolled out with its partners is specifically for government officials and business travelers. Before anyone can book a plane ticket they first need a specific document. Before the pandemic, 95% of her job required traveling on business trips. After working from home for 8 months she took a trip from Singapore to Seoul in early November. Lee brought documents to the airport including her test results and an itinerary that she had to stick to. Now you need to also establish a safety protocol between the two destinations means-testing.
We had to take a total of three tests. So like a pre-departure one within the 72 hours before you leave. And then one upon arrival in South Korea and one upon arrival back in Singapore. After lee landed in Seoul she remained in isolation for less than 24 hours while waiting for her test result. After she was confirmed negative lee downloaded an app to her phone and headed outside. In late November Singapore and hong kong were ready to launch a different kind of travel bubble with far fewer requirements. Travelers wouldn’t need a sponsor letter or a fixed itinerary. But they’d still need to take three tests and download the tracking app.
If it is successful then some of the protocols might be a bit more relaxed. The number of flights will certainly increase there’s an immense desire to travel. But just two days before the launch a surge in cases in hong kong prompted both cities to delay the travel bubble for two weeks. Countries in Asia have been watching the Singapore, hong kong travel bubble as a model for reopening airways safely. Only to be reminded that any planning during a pandemic is difficult.
Meanwhile, other governments are taking tentative steps. For instance, a potential travel corridor between the UK and the United Arab Emirates may happen when the lockdown in Britain ends in early December. We do encourage destinations to follow the model that actually Singapore is doing. And a few others within the region have already put these plans together and have communicated them to the private sectors in the respective countries. And that is really helpful for businesses at least to have a plan. Until there’s a vaccine, travel arrangements that emphasize testing over quarantines can be one of the best ways to help restart economies.