Macau is once again tightening its borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this time limiting access on certain individuals who are arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Macau on Tuesday confirmed its 25th case of the coronavirus. The patient is a 41-year-old man who is a resident of Indonesia, but works in Macau and is registered to do so with enclave authorities. He arrived to Macau from Hong Kong.
Macau, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, currently has 15 coronavirus patients in isolation at Conde S. Januário Hospital.
After 10 people tested positive for the coronavirus in February, the world’s biggest gambling hub went more than a month without identifying another case. The mandatory 15-day closure of casinos and strict entry health screenings contained the disease’s spread.
But after reopening the casinos this month and easing the lengthy entry screenings, a new wave of the coronavirus has made its way back into the enclave.
Back on Lockdown
As a result of the influx of coronavirus patients, Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng announced new entry procedures. Effective Wednesday, anyone arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan who has traveled overseas in the previous 14 days will be banned from entering the enclave.
The government assures all Macau citizens it will do a good job in epidemic prevention at any cost,” Ho explained, though COVID-19 is defined as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
All foreigners are already banned from entering Macau, the three lone exceptions being mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Visitor arrivals dropped 96 percent in February 2020, leading to a gross gaming revenue (GGR) loss of 88 percent. Win totaled $387 million, $2.75 billion short of February 2019.
Ho added, “The entry-ban and quarantine measures are not retaliatory. We are not in a hostile relation with Hong Kong. They saw the need to impose the new measures and we are doing so in collaboration.”
Dire Economic Impact
The gaming industry is Macau’s lifeline, casinos generating around 90 percent of all taxes the enclave government receives each year. The six licensed casino operators – Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, SJM Holdings, Galaxy Entertainment, and Melco Resorts – report they are individually losing between $1.5 million and $4 million each day during the pandemic.
Macau officials have amended the government’s budget, the enclave now expecting GGR to total $16.3 billion in 2020 – roughly half of the $32.5 billion estimated prior to the pandemic.
China remains home to the most coronavirus cases, with 81,601 positive results. Nine people have died in the People’s Republic from the disease over the last 24 hours.
In an effort to boost its local economy, Macau is giving vouchers to each adult resident valued at 3,000 patacas ($375). Citizens are free to spend the credit on anything they wish, so long as it’s used in the SAR.