COVID-19 outbreaks in mainland China have been growing in recent weeks, with more than 1,500 people infected in a single day on Wednesday and confirmed cases across multiple provinces, including Guangzhou and Shenzhen, both neighboring Macau.
This has led some Macau academics to offer pessimism about the upcoming October “Golden Week”, stating that the number of visitors to Macau will not increase due to the pandemic situation on the mainland and the ongoing issue of Individual Visit Scheme visas.
The President of the Macau Responsible Gaming Association, Song Wai Kit, said that the situation in the past two years had shown that an increase in the flow of people would likely lead to a local outbreak.
“Mainland visitors to Macau are now thinking about the possibility of a sudden outbreak of the pandemic which would prevent them from going back [home] … plus there is now an [outbreak] in Guangdong Province, with almost half of Shenzhen under lockdown and Zhuhai having a large-scale NAT test today.
“The pandemic has affected the confidence of visitors to Macau and I believe that this year’s Golden Week is not promising.”
Macau’s gambling revenue from January to August has reached only MOP$28.9 billion (US$3.58 billion), down 53.4% from last year and tracking well below the government’s MOP$130 billion estimate for the year.
Song believes that September’s gambling revenue will not rise much either – analysts agree – as the average daily revenue is currently less than MOP$100 million (US$12.4 million).
“Now that it is more difficult for visitors to apply for an Individual Visit Permit than in the past, coupled with the absence of VIP rooms and the impact of the pandemic, it will take time for gambling revenue to rise,” he said.
On 1 September the Macau government opened up entry to visitors from 41 countries, but seven days of hotel quarantine are still required. Song said, “This measure is definitely not attractive from a tourism point of view, but it will facilitate the entry of foreign business people.
“Let’s take Hong Kong as an example. Foreign visitors are not even attracted to the three-day isolation period in Hong Kong, let alone Macau … many countries do not need the isolation period anymore.”
As for the relaxation of the pandemic prevention policy, it is widely rumored that China will relax its COVID-zero policy after the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on 16 October.
Song said, “This statement is full of unknowns. In the past, there were many predictions about the pandemic prevention policy and it was once said that the mainland government would relax its policy after the Winter Olympics, but in the end there was no change.
“It is still unclear whether the pandemic prevention policy will be relaxed after the 20th National Congress.”