In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s now May. What would normally be the second busiest period of the year for our industry, the May Golden Week, is upon us. But the players are not.
Last week President Duterte extended the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) measures in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines until 15 May, and Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan announced Hong Kong’s 14-day quarantine for those arriving from mainland China, Macau or Taiwan would be extended to 7 June.
On Friday the IAG weekly spot count reported a meagre average of just 14 players each on the main gaming floors of Macau’s 11 biggest IRs during midweek afternoons last week.
On Saturday the DICJ announced April GGR for Macau was down 96.8% year on year. And the two Singapore IRs are closed until at least 1 June.
There will be no “V-shaped rebound.” So much for commentators speculating a few weeks back on “the recovery that will drive gamblers to Macau’s doors,” who confidently proclaimed, “May 1 is the day. Mark it in your calendars.”
Our industry needs to base its analysis on facts and data, not wishful thinking or trying to talk things up. We need calm-headed realism in the face of this crisis. On any objective analysis, there is still considerable water yet to pass under the bridge before we’re ready to even start the recovery, never mind finish it.
Singapore and the Philippines are still facing uphill battles, but it isn’t all doom and gloom for Macau. In the past week or two, there have finally been some encouraging signs for the SAR.
According to official figures (which may or may not be entirely reliable), the total number of active COVID-19 cases in all of mainland China is down to around 500 – negligible in a country of 1.4 billion. Macau’s active cases now number in the single digits. The number of people in quarantine in Macau is under 200, and the number of quarantine hotels, which peaked at 12, is down to just two.
The number of active cases in Guangdong is under 30, and in Hong Kong around 150, but with no new cases over the weekend just gone and no new non-imported cases for two weeks.
Positive murmurings by powerful people have begun. Two weeks ago Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng said details of the IVS (individual visit scheme) resumption date were likely “by the end of April,” and while that hasn’t occurred, it could at any moment. There have been meetings between the Macau and Zhuhai governments. Several legislators urged the removal of mandatory quarantine imposed by Guangdong Province during a Legislative Assembly Q&A session on Wednesday last week.
Reinstatement of the IVS, even if just for visitors to Macau from a few cities in Guangdong, would be an important step. An equally important step would be the removal of the 14 day quarantine for visitors returning to mainland China from Macau. Both are needed for Macau to rehang its “open for business” sign.
I would never be so presumptuous as to guess a hard date for when this might happen, but broad speculation is possible. May seems plausible, perhaps within days as suggested by health officials on Sunday.
Then again nobody would be surprised if that did not transpire. 1 June feels like a reasonable day, assuming the prevailing trajectory of circumstances remained unchanged. If not June, you would really have to put your money on 1 July, the first day of Q3. Any later without some compelling justification would seem strange.
Let’s hope it can be earlier rather than later.
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