Plans to ease travel between Macau and Hong Kong have been derailed, as the latter city confirmed on Thursday a new local Covid-19 case, breaking Hong Kong’s 16-day run of zero local infections. The new case is ‘likely’ to involve the more infectious Delta virus variant, according to local authorities.
Authorities in Hong Kong ordered a lockdown and mass testing for hundreds of residents at an apartment block in Tai Po, after a 27-year-old airport worker living there tested preliminary positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday. About 180 people have been ordered into quarantine as part of the lockdown.
The Macau authorities said on Monday that Hong Kong would need to have 28 consecutive days of no new cases before Macau would consider lifting its 14-day quarantine on arrival requirement for inbound visitors coming via Hong Kong.
On Thursday, a Macau health official said the two sides were still discussing the details on easing travel between the two cities, but no final agreement had been reached. Once Hong Kong reached the 28-day mark of zero local Covid-19 cases, “then we can implement this system,” stated Macau Health Bureau official Leong Iek Hou in a Macau government press conference.
“But for now, we cannot move forward with it as the requirements have not yet been met,” she added.
According to previous information, any relaxation in travel rules would likely 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, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said. There would also be a “circuit breaker” mechanism in case of fresh cases in either city.
Officials in Hong Kong have indicated that the new Covid-19 infection found in the city would not impact a plan to reduce the mandatory quarantine period to seven days for fully vaccinated travellers who meet certain coronavirus testing conditions on entering the city. That plan was to take effect at the end of the month, according to the city’s government.
On Thursday, Hong Kong also confirmed six imported Covid-19 cases. The latest tally took the city’s Covid-19 infection count to 11,905, with 210 related deaths.
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Daisy Ho Chiu Fung
Chairman of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings