Macau is entering a “new phase” in its approach to dealing with Covid-19, said on Thursday the official in charge of health policy, after nearly three years that has seen the tourism and casino sector severely affected by inbound and local travel restrictions.
The new phase would be in line with mainland China’s policy adjustments, which had been announced on Wednesday, and Macau’s own eased protocols could see at least 50 percent – and up to 80 percent – of the city’s population infected with Covid-19, stated Elsie Ao Ieong U, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture.
“Over 90 percent of Covid-19 infected people will be asymptomatic and will be able to quarantine at home in future. This is not a political decision, it’s a scientific decision,” stated the official. She was speaking at a press conference (pictured) of the city’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre.
Home quarantine is a shift from prior policy of placing people either in medical isolation, or government-overseen hotel facilities.
Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre stated on Thursday that the city had identified 24 Covid-19 infections as of midnight on Wednesday, 20 of them in the community.
But in terms of Macau’s policy aspiration to bring in more overseas customers to its casino resorts, a rule remains that anyone wishing to enter the city via places outside mainland China, must do a five-day quarantine at a centralised location.
One slight change is that an additional three days of health ‘self-management’ required by arrivals from outside mainland China – after they have completed a five-day centralised quarantine – will no longer involve the person having a ‘red’ Macau digital health code. The latter prevents most social interaction. A “yellow’ code – allowing some more leeway, but not access to casino floors – will apply instead.
For visitors from mainland China – the main tourism source market for Macau – some nucleic acid test rules still apply for entry, but post-entry testing has been scrapped.
Visitors coming via next-door Zhuhai in Guangdong province will still need to present a ‘negative’ nucleic acid test result with 24-hour validity from the time of testing to enter Macau.
Such a test with 48-hour validity from the time of testing is still required for those from the rest of the Chinese mainland.
DS Kim, an analyst at JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd, said in a Sunday note: “Long-haul travel sentiment could remain weak for now, and there is a risk of a significant Covid-19 wave if some level of herd immunity were to be achieved in China/Macau.”
Though he added, referring to a major upcoming holiday season in China: “We believe the direction of reopening is very clear, and we are sanguine about a meaningful demand recovery into/after the Lunar New Year holidays next month (21-27 January 2023).”
The analyst further noted: “We continue to model a mass/non-gaming revenue recovery to 35 percent to 40 percent [pre-pandemic] levels by first quarter 2023”. This should be “enough” to see the Macau gaming operators start once more generating positive earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation, added Mr Kim.
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