China Eases Border Restrictions for Hong Kong and Macau

  • The border between mainland China and Hong Kong opened up on Sunday
  • Travelers from Macau to China will also no longer need to show negative tests
  • The new arrangement does not yet cover Macau-Hong Kong travel
  • Macau casinos are still struggling as a result of continued restrictions on travel
Coronavirus tape broken
In a major boost for casinos, China has reopened the border between Hong Kong and the mainland while also easing limits on Macau travel. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A long time coming

In a move that will give hope to the struggling casinos of Macau, government officials have opened the border between Hong Kong and China for the first time in around three years while also easing restrictions on the Macau border with the mainland.

no longer need to show negative COVID-19 tests

Sunday marked a “gradual and orderly” resumption of quarantine-free travel between mainland China and Hong Kong. Visitors will no longer need to show negative COVID-19 tests upon their arrival to mainland China.

As per the announcement made last Thursday, the government has also eased some test requirements for travel from Macau to the mainland. Travelers arriving in mainland China from the gambling hub will not need to present negative test results as long as they have no foreign travel history in the seven days before.

A gradual process

The decision to remove certain restrictions comes as China unwinds its strict pandemic rules in place since the beginning of the crisis in 2020.

The China-Hong Kong border has not returned to normality completely. Initially, only up to 60,000 people from China or Hong Kong can cross the border per day. Those who wish to cross a land border need to make an online reservation.

According to Reuters, this new quarantine-free arrangement does not yet cover people traveling between Macau and Hong Kong. Hong Kong leader John Lee confirmed that an announcement on this matter will come at a later date. The Chinese authorities plan to increase the number of flights between the mainland, Macau, and Hong Kong.

China will also permit international travelers to enter the country without having to quarantine, as well as returning residents.

The easing of restrictions comes despite spiraling levels of COVID-19 infections across China. Previous attempts to ease border restrictions were often postponed as a result of outbreaks of COVID-19.

Hoping for a rebound

Macau’s casinos have struggled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While casinos in the region have only closed for short periods, extensive pandemic restrictions have come at a high cost to visitor and revenue numbers.

revenue dropped by 50% year-on-year in 2022

Each operator has suffered significant losses over the past couple of years in Macau. Gaming revenue dropped by 50% year-on-year in 2022 to a total of MOP42.2bn ($5.24bn). The figure marked a new low for the market since it opened up 20 years ago.

The six casino companies that hold licenses to operate resort casinos in the Asian gambling hub have clearly indicated their commitment to recovery through non-gaming investment. They have pledged almost $15bn of investment towards non-gaming development in the coming decade. Each of Macau’s six casino concession holders recently renewed their licenses for another ten-year period.