Alvis Lo Iek Long, a senior Macau health official, said on Monday afternoon that Hong Kong would need to go 28 consecutive days without a new, local Covid-19 infection before quarantine-free travel inbound via Hong Kong could be contemplated. However, in such instance, it was likely that restrictions on journeys between the two cities would still apply, according to respective comments by officials of those cities.
The two sides had previously mentioned 14 consecutive days of no Hong Kong infection as the starting point for talks on easing travel arrangements.
According to a number of investment analysts, Hong Kong consumers accounted for at least 10 percent of Macau’s casino gross gaming revenue annually, in pre-pandemic trading conditions.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, said on Monday afternoon that talks on easing of travel arrangements between Hong Kong and Macau had already started.
Currently, residents of either Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan or mainland China that have been in Hong Kong in the 14 days prior to their intended arrival in Macau, are required to present a test report – issued within 24 hours – proving they are ‘negative’ for Covid-19 infection. Such inbound travellers are also currently required to do a 14-day quarantine on arrival to Macau.
Earlier on Monday, Mr Lo, director of Macau’s Health Bureau, had said on the sidelines of a public event: “We’re happy in seeing that Hong Kong has, today, already marked the 14th day of recording no local [Covid-19 infection] cases. So, as planned, we will discuss with the relevant departments in Hong Kong measures facilitating travel [with Macau].”
Mr Lo said talks would include “whether to shorten” the number of quarantine days to be served on arrival, or whether to exempt from quarantine arrivals via Hong Kong.
Ms Lam said in Monday’s media briefing that any easing was likely to involve a quota system initially, to limit the flow of people between the cities.
Any relaxation in travel rules would only apply to those that are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Travellers could be asked not only to take a virus test ahead of the trip – as at present – but also one after they arrive at their destination, the Hong Kong chief executive said.
Even if easing takes place, there would be a “circuit breaker” mechanism in case of fresh cases in either city, Ms Lam mentioned.
Mainland China is the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel bubble with Macau, amid existing travel restrictions as countermeasures against Covid-19.
But fresh cases of Covid-19 infection in Macau’s neighbouring province Guangdong have been reported since late May. In response to that situation, the Macau government had announced that residents from a number of Guangdong communities were subject to 14-day quarantine on arrival in Macau.
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