SINGAPORE — Singaporean budget airline Scoot will be barred from landing flights from Singapore in Hong Kong from Friday (16 April) to 29 April after two passengers on a flight to the territory were confirmed to have COVID-19 and one other had flouted pandemic-related rules, said Hong Kong authorities on Thursday.
Flight TR980 operated by Scoot, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines (SIA), had arrived from Singapore to Hong Kong on 11 April with the two passengers who tested positive for COVID-19, according to a press release issued by the territory's government detailing its daily coronavirus virus cases.
The two passengers were confirmed to be infected after their specimens were collected at Hong Kong's Department of Health (DH) Temporary Specimen Collection Centre.
The other passenger had failed to comply with requirements under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H), the release said.
"The DH thus invoked the regulation to prohibit landing of passenger flights from Singapore operated by SCOOT in Hong Kong from 16 April to 29," it added.
In response to Yahoo News Singapore's media queries, Scoot confirmed that the company was asked on Wednesday by Hong Kong authorities to temporarily suspend its daily passenger service from Singapore to Hong Kong.
"Two transfer passengers on flight TR980 on 11 April, who carried valid negative pre-departure COVID-19 test results, tested positive on arrival in Hong Kong," the airline said.
A third transfer passenger, onboard the same flight, tested negative on the pre-departure COVID-19 test as well as tested negative on arrival in Hong Kong, the airline added.
"However, this passenger’s test and travel visa supporting documents were found to not fully meet Hong Kong’s regulatory requirements," it said.
Scoot also added that it will work closely with its ground handling agents to reinforce its protocols and staff training in conducting document checks at its departure points and to ensure that its passengers comply with all regulatory requirements.
"For affected passengers booked on TR980 departing from 16 April onwards, Scoot will provide re-booking where possible or offer a full refund. Scoot sincerely apologises to our customers for the inconvenience caused," the airline said.
Scoot's suspension comes less than two weeks after Hong Kong authorities banned SIA from landing any passenger flights arriving from Singapore in Hong Kong from 3 April to this Friday.
The suspension was due to one passenger testing positive for COVID-19 on the airline's Flight SQ882, which landed in Hong Kong from Singapore on 31 March, as well as three passengers who failed to comply with the same requirements as in the Scoot case.
SIA, Scoot to cease carrying transit passengers on SG to HK flights when suspensions lift
The SIA and Scoot later in separate statements on Thursday evening said that they would stop carrying transit passengers on flights from Singapore to Hong Kong when their suspensions lift "until further notice", due to new regulatory requirements in Hong Kong.
SIA will start implementing this from 17 April, with Scoot to begin from 30 April.
Both airlines said that their flights from Hong Kong to Singapore will remain unaffected and passengers originating from Hong Kong will be allowed to transfer through Changi Airport en-route to their final destinations.
Scoot customers who have booked transfer flights to Hong Kong will be provided a refund.
SIA said it will be reaching out to all affected customers to offer the necessary assistance and that they may choose to rebook their flights or seek a refund.
On Tuesday, in response to media queries, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said Singapore and Hong Kong are in "active discussion" on starting the air travel bubble between the two cities.
"We are finalising the details of our revised agreement and hope to announce our plans soon," he added in a statement issued by the Ministry of Transport.
His comments come on the same day Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam said that "the basis for discussion" with Singapore is for vaccination to be made mandatory for people leaving Hong Kong and entering Singapore.
Travel bubble arrangements between the two cities – announced on 11 November – were originally scheduled to begin on 22 November. But the arrangements were postponed for two weeks a day before they were to begin, after a surge in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong.
They were further postponed indefinitely in December as local unlinked COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong had remained high.
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