The Macao SAR Government has been continuing to take careful steps toward gradual reopening of travel to and from the city as COVID-19 remains under control locally despite the ongoing pandemic.
Macao confirmed a new case of COVID-19 on 26 June, ending a 78-day run of no new infections in the city.
The first case of COVID-19 infection in Macao was confirmed on 22 January. Another 44 cases were detected in the following three months, with all but two of the infected patients having brought the virus in from outside the city. No new cases had been reported in Macao since 8 April.
All the initial 45 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital. No death of anybody infected with COVID-19 has been registered in Macao.
Since June, selected Macao residents eligible to cross the boundary into Zhuhai in Guangdong Province, have been permitted to apply for exemption from undergoing a 14-day medical observation in Zhuhai. People entitled to apply for exemption include those registered with the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute as “business” people, as long as their reason for travel has been approved; those visiting Zhuhai on Government business; and those approved for “special reasons”.
The application period for such quarantine exemption began on 11 June and is ongoing. Requests can be made online via https://app.ssm.gov.mo/IMM. The Macao SAR Government assesses applications on a case-by-case basis and then forwards its recommendations to the Zhuhai authorities for consideration.
Currently, a quota limit of 3,000 permissions per day is available under the quarantine exemption initiative.
Those eligible to apply need to satisfy requirements other than those listed above, in order to be granted exemption from quarantine on the Zhuhai side. They include that the person has not been to any places outside Macao and the Mainland in the 14 days prior to their intended arrival in Zhuhai; and that they do not have any COVID-19-related symptoms such as fever or cough. Applicants also must provide a health-status declaration under Macao’s Health Code system via generation of a “green” code result. They must additionally possess a certificate proving a negative nucleic-acid test resultfor COVID-19, and the result must have been issued within seven days of the person’s intended arrival in Zhuhai.
Once an application for quarantine exemption is approved, the traveller concerned is able to make multiple trips between Macao and Zhuhai over a seven-day period without being required to undergo medical observation in Zhuhai. Travellers must however enter Zhuhai either via the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao Bridge, or the Lotus Bridge.
Special ferry service to Hong Kong’s airport
In addition, in cooperation with the Hong Kong SAR Government, the Macao SAR Government launched on 17 June a special ferry service between Taipa Ferry Terminal and Hong Kong International Airport. Its introduction seeks to facilitate the return to Macao of Macao residents currently overseas, and to enable those located in Macao due to the novel coronavirus alert and who wish to reach another destination, to do so, without having to undergo a 14-day period of medical observation in Hong Kong.
Shuttle bus services between the two cities across the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge were stopped on 6 April, but operations were resumed on 8 May with reduced service frequency. Normal ferry sailings between Macao and Hong Kong have been under suspension since 4 February.
The special ferry service from and to Hong Kong International Airport is provided by TurboJET and Cotai Water Jet between 17 June and 16 July. There are two sailings inbound to Macao and two sailings outbound each day during the period.
Macao residents wishing to use the special ferry service to return to the city must register online, via https://aeees.dses.gov.mo/HKMAC. Returnees to Macao are required under epidemic-control measures to undergo on arrival a 14-day period of medical observation at designated facilities.
Those wishing to take the outbound ferry to Hong Kong International Airport can only do so if they are joining a flight operated by certain designated airlines.
Meanwhile, individuals who have visited Beijing 14 days prior to their arrival in Macao, are now required to undergo a 14-day period of medical observation. In implementing the measure, Macao authorities took into consideration the fact that Beijing has raised its public health emergency response level following a COVID-19 outbreak in mid-June linked to a local market.
Gradual reopening of community activities
Amid cautious optimism that the COVID-19 pandemic is being brought under control in Macao, careful steps are being taken toward the gradual resumption of those community activities paused since a city-wide shutdown was imposed between late January and early March.
Primary education classes were resumed in stages beginning on 25 May. Secondary education classes also resumed in May. The gradual resumption of tertiary education classes began in April.
The phased reopening of public facilities for culture, sport and leisure began in March. Public libraries, museums, exhibition halls, and rooms for rehearsing performances are among the facilities to have reopened.
However, a number of big public events and cultural performances have been cancelled, except those scheduled for the long term.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Macao SAR Government has taken a range of measures to control the spread of the virus, to protect Macao people and visitors to the city. The measures were meant to reduce flows of people into Macao and reduce contact between members of the public, with a view to diminishing the chances of spreading the virus.
Local authorities introduced in May a colour-based health code system that assigns individuals the colour green, yellow or red, depending on whether they should be allowed into public spaces. Quick response codes, commonly abbreviated to QR codes, are assigned to individuals based on information they supply via an online form, and data related to COVID-19 cases in Macao compiled by the Health Bureau.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed exceptional challenges. Restrictions on travel to Macao and other places around the world have harmed the tourism industry in the city. By the end of June, 7 hotels or guesthouses, together containing 1,731 rooms, remained closed temporarily. An updated list is available at https://eservice.macaotourism.gov.mo/entityClosed/hotel.php?lang=1.
The pandemic has disrupted transport to and from Macao. Many air services have been suspended, some until the end of September. The details of cancelled flights are available at https://www.macau-airport.com/en/media-centre/press-release. Also suspended are ferry services to and from Mainland China.
The Macao SAR Government has responded in an unprecedented manner to the economic difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the public. Its multipronged approach is structured to help businesses stay afloat, to keep workers in employment, to relieve the financial burden on individuals and companies, and to spur the economy to recover once the pandemic is contained.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the Macao SAR Government has taken two rounds of measures, together worth more than MOP30 billion, intended to help affected businesses and the public. More information on the second financial package can be read here. The Macao SAR Government announced in the Policy Address for Fiscal Year 2020 a set of policy measures specifically meant to foster the recovery of the tourism and leisure industries from the slowdown caused by the pandemic. Those details can be found here.
The health authorities continue to recommend that all Macao people and visitors to the city wear protective face masks while in public, stay at home as much as possible, and avoid gathering together or forming crowds. The health authorities recommend that people avoid travel. Everyone is reminded to maintain social distancing measures and wash their hands frequently.