When can Hong Kong people travel again? A Quick Look Into the Vaccination Progress for Popular Destinations

Hong Kong citizens have stopped travelling for more than a year since the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Hong Kong in January 2020. 

As the first batch of Sinovac vaccines from China has just arrived in Hong Kong, priority groups (including the elderly, medical staff, cross-border drivers) will be able to be vaccinated from today onwards.

With the hope that the vaccines can pacify the pandemic, many Hong Kong citizens may be eager to travel as soon as chances arise. While large-scale vaccinations and COVID-19 testing will be indispensable conditions to allow quarantine-free travelling across different countries, it may still take some time for mass vaccinations and to tackle other safety concerns.

Skyscanner, a flight and hotel booking website, surveyed over 7,500 Skyscanner users (of which around 1,000 of them are from Hong Kong) across 8 Asia-Pacific markets in 2018 to understand more about the travel trend in these markets. According to the survey results, the Top 5 most popular destination countries of the Hong Kong market, in order, are Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and China. 

Take a look at the table below to know more about the vaccination progress and timeline of the Top 5 Most Popular Destination Countries of Hong Kong people.

Country Doses
Per Population Percentage Notes and Remarks
Japan 18,000

(as of Feb 24, 2021)


(1.4 doses administered per 10,000 people)

Taiwan 0 0%
Thailand 0 0%
South Korea 5,266

(as of Feb 26, 2021)


(1.0 doses administered per 10,000 people)

China 40,500,000
(as of Feb 26, 2021)

(290.7 doses administered per 10,000 people)

  • Beijing planned to have around 3.5% of the total population (50 million people) being vaccinated by Mid-February, right before the Lunar New Year.
  • Predicted by a Chinese vaccine expert, 70% of Chinese citizens will be vaccinated by the end of 2021, hence achieving herd immunity.

Originally, a Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble would have been launched in November 2020, which allows quarantine-free travelling, plus zero limitations on the purpose of travel, including tourism. At maximum, 2 designated flights with 200 passengers each will arrive in Hong Kong and Singapore respectively. Travellers are required to present a negative test result before departure from their home country and receive another test upon arrival, and the same procedures have to be done before going back to their home country.

Photo of the Merlion, a landmark and tourist attraction in Singapore during daytime.
“The MERLION, Iconic Landmark of Singapore till today…” by williamcho is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

However, as the number of infected cases rose rapidly before the launch date (which was the beginning of the “third wave” pandemic in Hong Kong), the Hong Kong government had postponed the Air Travel Bubble until the end of December 2020. Yet, the government did not mention the reopening of the Air Travel Bubble scheme, as the “third wave” pandemic had not ended even in December 2020.

Edward Yau Tang-wah, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development was asked whether vaccines would be the hope to “restore business and travel in the coming first quarter [in 2021]”, in an interview with South China Morning Post.

While Yau replied “definitely” in the interview, adding that the vaccines “would not just sort of help us to cope with the pandemic, but also hope to restore business confidence”, he also stated that repeated testing before and upon arrival would be crucial for the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble.

At the time of writing, European Union (EU) leaders are discussing the possibility of allowing EU citizens to travel to other member states if they are able to show that they have been vaccinated, or commonly called as “vaccine passport”. However, this had raised ethical concerns regarding discrimination against those who are not willing to be vaccinated and that target groups may have an advantage over the general population. Safety concern regarding whether people who have been vaccinated would still be able to transmit COVID-19 is yet to be investigated.

The European Union (EU) Flag alongside with flags of other member states.
“European Union” by motiqua is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Many destination countries Hong Kong people wish to travel have just begun vaccination, and the majority of the citizens are expected to be vaccinated earliest by the third quarter of the year. With that in mind, Hong Kong people may have to keep waiting for mass vaccinations in other countries to be completed or for Air Travel Bubbles to be formed in order to resume travelling.

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