Authorities in Guangdong province announced on Thursday evening a 14-day quarantine requirement for people entering the province from Macau and Hong Kong. Separately, the Chinese central government said that same day that it was to introduce a temporary suspension of entry by foreign nationals holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits.
Both measures came into effect on Friday (March 27). They are part of mainland China’s effort to stem the spread of the Covid-19 disease.
Hubei province in mainland China was the original epicentre of the pandemic, with the first official infections there reported in December. After a spike in new cases in January and February, Chinese authorities have been able to reduce drastically the number of local coronavirus infections: they are now ramping up controls to prevent people infected with the Covid-19 virus to enter the mainland to prevent a resurgence of infections.
Guangdong authorities said in a Thursday statement that the province would start requiring all travellers coming from outside mainland China to undergo a 14-day quarantine at designated facilities, and to take Covid-19 tests. That included people from Guangdong visiting Macau and returning home.
Travellers would be required to cover the expenses of their respective quarantine, added the statement.
The announcement said there were some exceptions to the quarantine rule, including people working in cross-boundary logistics. But even those would have to take Covid-19 tests.
Guangdong is the mainland province neighbouring Macau. It is the main feeder market for the city’s tourism industry: nearly one third of the 39.4 million visitor arrivals recorded by Macau last year came from Guangdong province.
Guangdong is also a major supplier of gamblers to Macau’s casinos, according to analysts covering the city’s gaming industry.
Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said the imposition of travel restrictions within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area – including other measures previously announced between Macau and Hong Kong – were “likely to weaken Macau’s very soft recovery that we have seen since the casinos reopened on February 20.”
The brokerage added that, following the latest round of travel restrictions, it was reducing its gross gaming revenue (GGR) estimate for the Macau casino market for March: it now forecasts a year-on-year GGR decline of 80 percent to 82 percent for the current month, versus a prior estimate of a decrease of 78 percent to 80 percent.
Earlier this week, the Macau authorities had already announced more stringent entry limits for visitors arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. That included a 14-day quarantine requirement for people arriving from Hong Kong.
Fear of market collapse
“With visitors from Hong Kong having comprised 50 percent to 60 percent percent of all visitors into Macau since the casinos reopened in late February and Chinese visitors utilising business visas and other entry permits driving much of the visitation into Macau, we are now set to see a collapse of the limited business Macau has seen in the last five weeks,” Sanford Bernstein analysts Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu wrote in a note published on Friday.
They added: “While we, and much of the Macau gaming industry, were (hopefully) looking to April as a time when some visa loosening would begin (perhaps individual visit scheme visas for Guangdong residents, to start), this now looks quite doubtful. New visa issuances are now not likely to begin as early as April and May is looking more realistic.”
The Sanford Bernstein analysts added that new visa issuances under the individual visit scheme were “most certainly to be implemented in phased manner”. Such measure would also “depend on progress made” in containing virus spread in Macau and Hong Kong. Both cities recorded a spike in Covid-19 infection cases over the past two weeks, driven largely by residents returning from overseas, where they had reportedly been infected.
The individual visit scheme – also known as IVS – was suspended in late January. The number of cities under the IVS system currently stands at 49. According to industry insiders, many Chinese gamblers use this scheme to enter Macau.
Authorities in mainland China meanwhile decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits still valid to the time of this announcement, reported official Chinese news agency Xinhua quoting a statement jointly released by Chinese Foreign Ministry and the National Immigration Administration.
The announcement added that several visa-free policies in place at different ports in mainland China – including Guangdong’s 144-hour visa-free policy specified for foreign tour groups from Macau or Hong Kong – woul also be temporarily suspended.
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Vitaly Umansky, Kelsey Zhu and Tianjiao Yu
Analysts at brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein