From after the stroke of midnight on Wednesday (March 3) people wishing to enter Macau casino floors will no longer need to show a test certificate proving they are free of Covid-19 infection, said on Tuesday the Macau government.
But the rule whereby all individuals from mainland China wishing to enter Macau must have a negative nucleic acid test report issued within seven days of arrival, stays in place, added the authorities. A number of investment analysts has suggested that the Covid-19 test requirement for entry to Macau itself, and the duration of the test certificate validity, is an inhibiting factor for would-be tourists to Macau from mainland China.
The mainland is currently the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel bubble with Macau.
DS Kim, an analyst at the JP Morgan banking group, said in a Tuesday note, the dropping of the need for a test certificate for casino entry might be a “tiny step toward further easing” of restrictions on the market.
But he observed: “Since those entering Macau from [mainland] China would already have negative test results… the rule change is unlikely to affect inbound demand.”
But the change would probably “help revive demand” from “local” players, who had been “nearly absent since mid-July”, he added.
Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said in a Wednesday memo, that “Macau [locals'] play is likely 2 to 3 percent of gross gaming revenue” in that market.
Analysts Vitaly Umansky, Tianjiao Yu and Louis Li described dropping the Covid-19 test requirements for casino entry as a “positive step forward on the path to normalcy, but we do not see any border changes forthcoming in the immediate near-term.”
Mainland infection reports down
The local authorities had introduced the Covid-19 test certificate rule for casino entry with effect from July 15.
Factors affecting the decision to ease the Covid-19 test rule for casino access included, said the local government, the ongoing “strict compliance” with Covid-19 countermeasures on casino floors.
That included: self-certification of individuals’ health via the local online health code system in order to access casino floors; use of protective face masks; introduction of separating barriers between players; and social distance rules ensuring reasonable spacing between all those inside casinos.
The Macau government said also contributing to the decision to cancel the Covid-19 test certificate requirement, was the fact that the epidemic risk in mainland China had been “significantly reduced” since mid-February.
Currently, there were no areas in mainland China of “medium- or high-incidence” of Covid-19 infection “for at least 10 consecutive days, nor local transmission for 24 consecutive days”.
Furthermore, the “epidemic will be relatively more stable as the weather becomes warmer,” added the Macau government announcement.
Analysts Carlo Santarelli and Steven Pizzella of the Deutsche Bank group, suggested in a Tuesday memo the change on casino entry rules was “the strongest signal of meaningful progress” toward normalisation of market access, “in some time”.
Referring to the so-called “Two Sessions” – meetings starting in Beijing on Thursday (March 4) of respectively China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), and its top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Deutsche Bank analysts stated of the latest signal of easing in the Macau market: “We do not expect the benefits of these changes to appear in March, but we do believe, post the government meetings in Beijing later this month, a notable pick up is likely in the spring.”
Fresh public policy announcements or initiatives in China can coincide with meetings of the NPC and the CPPCC.
The news of the casino entry relaxation comes as it emerged on Monday that Macau casino gross gaming revenue in the month of February actually fell 8.9 percent month-on-month. This February encompassed Chinese New Year, in pre-pandemic times usually one of the strongest trading periods for the city’s gaming floors.
(Updated March 3, 10.15 am)
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