Attempts to protect public health
Macau is bringing into effect a 14-day ban on international flights. The measure will begin at midnight on Sunday and end January 23 at 23:59. The Macau Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre announced the news on Wednesday.
a possible risk associated with Covid-19”
Officials are banning travel from outside mainland China to reduce “a possible risk associated with Covid-19 for public health in Macau.” Health official Leong Iek Hou confirmed on Thursday that the ban would not include air travel into Macau from Taiwan.
Macau has seen a recent uptick in the number of highly transmissible Omicron variant cases among overseas travelers. The first of these came on Christmas Day in the form of a male Macau ID holder who had arrived back in the region from the US, flying through Singapore.
Restrictions already in place
Under current Macau restrictions, travelers from outside of mainland China must quarantine straight away after arrival, even if they initially test negative for coronavirus. Authorities revealed news of three new cases of COVID-19 in travelers from overseas on Wednesday.
Before the commencement of the 14-day ban, stricter quarantine rules came into place Thursday for overseas travelers categorized as “very high risk.” The Macau authorities announced the stricter rules on December 30, with 22 countries on the list.
Before people can fly to Macau from “very high risk” destinations, they must showcase three negative COVID-19 nucleic tests within five days of arrival, with a gap of at least 24 hours between the tests. These travelers are now subject to a 28-day quarantine period upon arriving in Macau.
An unclear future
Macau relies heavily on tax revenue from the casino sector, which has struggled since the onset of the pandemic. While people from most areas of mainland China are currently still able to visit Macau with minimal restrictions, the move to ban international air travel will likely have a knock-on impact for gaming revenue.
Total GGR in the region last year rose 44% year-to-year
The two-week ban only comes a few days after the Macau authorities revealed the gross gaming revenue (GGR) figures for 2021. Total GGR in the region last year rose 44% year-to-year but was still 70% lower than 2019 figures.
The final few months of 2021 saw some easing of restrictions, leading to improving revenue figures and visitor numbers. However, it is unclear what awaits Macau’s gaming sector in the coming months as the Omicron variant continues to wreak havoc.