Any changes to Macau border policy “tend to have a two- to four-week cycle”, when significant Covid-19 incidents occur, said a memo from JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd, mentioning that any fallout from the latest infection initially of one local person, announced on Wednesday, still had to be assessed.
“There is not much, if any, downside to near-term” market performance in the Macau casino sector, “given the extremely low bar set by market expectations,” stated analyst DS Kim in the note.
The initial case involving a 66-year-old local woman living in the Fai Chi Kei district of Macau peninsula, is being classified as “imported” and up to now the Macau authorities say it should not disrupt plans to restore gradually tour group business from the mainland – possibly from November – after a near three-year pause due to the pandemic.
In the early hours of Friday, Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre said a 31-year-old man, son of the initially-diagnosed local woman, had also tested ‘positive’ for Covid-19.
Under the city’s health protocols, mass testing of people in a ‘red’ zone and ‘key areas’ must occur daily for three consecutive days, from the time of an alert.
Any “prompt clearance of Covid-19” risk, “still allows room for demand recovery toward the year-end, given Macau’s border policy tends to have a two- to four-week cycle,” stated analyst Mr Kim in his Wednesday commentary.
Brokerage Jefferies LLC said in its note that day on the same topic, that the latest Covid-19 news “offsets the positives of group tours restarting soon”. But its analysts said they “believe e-visas are more important to gaming revenue”.
That was a reference to China’s Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) exit visas for independent travellers to come to Macau. It is one form of independent-travel visa set to return to an electronic issuance system, rather than in-person issuance; the latter system said to be slower with approvals.
Management at current Macau licensee Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd said recently in comments to investors that package tours from the Chinese mainland – which have been suspended since early 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic – might restart before eVisas, as a way for the mainland authorities to help Macau’s small businesses first, before the big casino operators.
On Wednesday, Macau’s Health Bureau published official guidelines for group tours, saying it would be necessary to limit the number of people on each tour, and there would be a requirement to submit a detailed itinerary. The guidelines also specify other conditions that the city’s travel trade needs to follow as countermeasures against Covid-19.
At a Wednesday afternoon press conference, the head of the city’s Health Bureau, Alvis Lo Iek Long, said the identification of the fresh Covid-19 case in Macau would “not set back” the plan to resume package tours, as it was classified as of “low risk” to the community. At the same briefing, Liz Lam Tong Hou of the Macao Government Tourism Office said her organisation was “diligently working” with the city’s travel trade to be ready to welcome tour groups from the mainland in the near future.
(Updated 9.11am, Oct 28)
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