Singapore and South Korea have been mentioned by world leaders, epidemiologists and the media as models that should be emulated by Europe and the United States in the global battle against COVID-19.
For example, The New York Times published “How South Korea Flattened the Curve” on 23 March, while CNBC’s 31 March article was titled “Countries in lockdown should do what Singapore has done, says coronavirus expert.”
While both countries are worthy of praise, noticeably absent from global recognition is Macau, which deserves to be mentioned alongside them.
Case in point: on Friday, Singapore’s Prime Minister announced a series of measures to combat COVID-19. Among them were the closure of schools and casinos, which were implemented in Macau weeks ago. The Prime Minister further stated that “[we] will no longer discourage people from wearing masks” which was a surprising statement given all the accolades Singapore has been receiving. Macau should be given credit for these five initiatives:
Macau since late January, South Korea since mid-February and Singapore in early April.
Macau closed its casinos for 15 days on 5 February and has since implemented strict guidelines for their operation, including a maximum of four players per baccarat table, versus the usual seven. The DICJ has since directed some casinos, at least verbally, to implement a maximum of three players per baccarat table. Korea’s ban on casinos has not been uniformly applied to all casinos until very recently. Singapore just announced the closure of both its casinos. Macau’s closure was impressive given that gaming taxes account for 86% of its revenues. It’s almost impossible to shutter its casinos, as they employ 58,000 of its 640,000 residents.
On 2 April, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated it is no longer against the public wearing ordinary masks. Contrast that with Macau making face masks available for every resident, and doing whatever it can to make mask-wearing in public ubiquitous since early February. Macau’s Chief Executive has worn them in every public appearance since then.
Test and trace
Singapore and South Korea have deservedly received praise for their rigorous testing, but Macau similarly deserves credit for its stringent tracing efforts, which have led to the discovery of several of its 44 cases so far.
Macau’s newly elected Chief Executive has been decisive and quick. When dealing with an exponentially growing virus, speed is crucial.
As a region often cited as the most densely populated in the world, Macau has implemented many lessons from the 2002 SARS crisis. It deserves to be recognized for its success, far superior to most other regions around the world and no less than on par with the very best of its Asian neighbors.