Following the good results of a series of epidemic prevention measures to fight the outbreak taken by the Macao SAR government in line with its “dynamic zero” policy, including deploying mass testing and strict quarantine measures across the city over three phases between 19th June and 22nd July. From 23rd July to 1st August, the city entered a “consolidation period”. Macao has entered a “stabilisation period” for a week from midnight on 2nd August, and the epidemic prevention measures will be further loosened up.
After reaching a total of 1,821 cases related to this outbreak, no new cases have been reported from 23rd July. Since the first cases emerged on 18th June, 6 deaths were reported concerning elderly people with underlying chronical diseases. Among the cases reported 1,116 are asymptomatic.
“Relatively static” control measures implemented in third phase
There have been three phases in Macao’s epidemic prevention campaign since the outbreak was first reported on 18thJune. The first phase (between 18th June and 3rd July), the government promptly activating swift response mechanisms in the wake of the outbreak, as well as adopting a region-specific, multi-level approach to precise prevention and control. The authority also started conducting citywide nucleic acid testing programmes. During the second phase (between 4th and 10th July), the government carried out a two-day round of nucleic acid testing for the whole population in conjunction with the testing of key groups and with rapid antigen testing as well.
In the third phase (between 11th and 22nd July), the government continued to conduct a high frequency nucleic acid testing programme for the whole population. Macao SAR Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng also issued an order which suspended all non-essential industrial and commercial activities and adopted “relatively static” control measures aimed at minimising non-essential activities in the city as much as possible between 11th and 23rd July.
Also in phase three, public sectors that do not provide emergency and essential services for daily life were closed, and a number of government departments issued “work permits” to people in the city who met certain conditions to cover any essential needs. Crowd control measures were also implemented in Macao’s markets and supermarkets.
Social operations gradually resume during “stabilisation period”
The number of positive COVID-19 cases has been dropping on an almost daily basis since 18th July, exactly a month after the start of the local outbreak. This is in part thanks to Macao’s three-phase strategy. As a result, the city entered a “consolidation period” from midnight on 23rd July to midnight on 2nd August, meaning that it began gradually easing towards a level of normality in terms of social operations.
Some limitations on both essential and non-essential businesses are being eased over this “consolidation period” and industrial and commercial companies or organisations that are necessary for the maintenance of life in Macao have been allowed to operate normally. Some other industrial and commercial companies or organisations have been resuming limited operations subject to their compliance with health authority guidelines. All government departments have also been resuming limited public services.
Between 2nd and 7th August, Macao enters a “stabilisation period” and the state of immediate prevention was terminated at 12:00 noon on 2nd August. Beauty salons, fitness centres and bars are among the businesses that can resume operations in this period. Restaurants are also allowed to resume dine-in operations. Establishments at which clients must remove their face masks are required to show a valid nucleic acid test certificate or negative nucleic acid test from within the past 3 days. Four key groups should conduct nucleic acid testing every day and those who go to work should take one of these tests every three days. During this “stabilisation period”, the public sector resumes normal operations. The Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) also recommences its external services. The tourist information located in the Ritz Building in Senado Square, the Border Gate, Macau International Airport, The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Frontier Post at Macao Port and Qingmao Port all resume normal operations. The Macao Grand Prix Museum also open to the public. However, the “Stay, Dine and See Macao” local tour programme remains suspended until further announcement.
Timely and targeted measures to ease economical stress levels in Macao
When it comes to the impact of the epidemic on both the livelihoods of the people of Macao and on the local tourism economy, the government has introduced financial assistance measures to the tune of about MOP10 billion, helping to ease the economical stress levels of anyone who has suffered financial losses during this virus outbreak period (please refer here for details).
People from all walks of life join forces to fight against the epidemic
People from all walks of life in Macao have been working together in the battle against the spread of the virus. A total of 2,350 medical staff were deployed by the Health Bureau and local medical institutions to participate in the nucleic acid testing and sampling programmes. More than 500 local samplers have been recruited since the outbreak began, while 650 samplers from Mainland China were sent to support the programmes.
The MGTO has continued to coordinate with the Health Burau and tourism operators the supply of more hotel rooms for medical observation during the outbreak, and has been providing assistance to travellers who have been staying in Macao, such as making sure they have nucleic acid tests and reservations at hotels and quarantine hotels when they enter Mainland China. The tourism industry and other organisations in Macao have also supported the government’s efforts in all sorts of ways (please refer here for details).
Since the outbreak of this COVID-19 wave in June, several events in Macao have been postponed, including the 10th Macao International Travel (Industry) Expo previously scheduled for early July, and the 2022 Guangdong & Macao Branded Products Fair has been rescheduled between 11th and 13th November, among others.
For the latest information on the COVID-19 situation in Macao, please visit www.ssm.gov.mo/PreventCOVID-19 and also see the MGTO’s announcements here www.macaotourism.gov.mo/en/article/notice/covid19-notice.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Macao on 18th June, the SAR government has taken various measures to contain the spread of the virus, while introducing a number of initiatives to help ease the impact of the epidemic on both the local economy and the lives of its residents. One big financial support initiative has been the launch of a MOP10 billion injection into the economy to support local businesses, including tourism-related, and residents.
Launch of the “MOP10 billion financial support measures” package to support Macao community
The MOP10 billion injection of financial support into the economy encompasses measures that cover five areas: financial assistance, tax relief, subsidies, employment support and the expansion of domestic demand. In tourism area, in terms of tax exemptions, a waiver of a 5% tourism tax that is usually levied on tourism-related businesses in Macao is in place. Plus, administrative licence fees for hotels and restaurants, as well as venues or industries that are used for specific activities, are being exempted or refunded this year. Housing tax for industrial and commercial venues - and vehicle licence tax for business vehicles - are also all being refunded under the new measures.
Other measures include the planning to co-operate with mobile payment institutions and associations is to hold a “Citywide Consumption Carnival” to accelerate the economic recovery and to increase domestic demand in the city while minimising the impact of the epidemic on the consumer market.
Furthermore, the Macao SAR government has also allocated a further MOP10 billion to cover the costs of the epidemic and provide inclusive assistance for those affected in the city. The government is preparing to conduct a dynamic assessment of the epidemic and its social impact on the city. As a result, it will adjust and supplement its financial support measures where appropriate as it also makes arrangements for the coming weeks and months.
On 28th July, the Chief Executive of the Macao SAR issued an Executive Order to launch a new round of public tender for a total of six gaming concessions - each with a maximum duration of 10 years. The tender is open for bids until 14th September.
The Executive Order specifies the factors for consideration when assessing the companies participating in the public tender and evaluating their respective bids. Factors include: the bidder’s proposal to expand Macao’s reach into tourist markets from foreign countries; its experience in operating games of chance in casinos or other relevant businesses; benefits Macao can accrue from the bidder’s investments in local gaming and non-gaming projects; its planning regarding casino management operations; its proposal for monitoring and preventing illegal activities inside its casinos; and the bidder’s commitment to corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The committee responsible for overseeing gaming concessions public tender also held a press conference on the same day to announce relevant details. The new committee has nine members. They are: Secretary for Administration and Justice, Cheong Weng Chon; Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lei Wai Nong; Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Ao Ieong U; Secretary-General of the Executive Council, Hoi Lai Fong; Director of the Economic and Technological Development Bureau, Tai Kin Ip; Director of the Macao Government Tourism Office, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes; Director of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, Adriano Marques Ho; Director of the Judiciary Police, Sit Chong Meng; and Director of the Land and Urban Construction Bureau, Lai Weng Leong. The Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau is to provide the committee with administrative, financial, technical, and logistic support.
Organised by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China and co-ordinated by the Network of International Culturalink Entities, a “Beautiful China - Experience with Heart & Eyes” promotion event was held in Beijing on 27th July. Alongside this event was the 2022 Hong Kong and Macao Cultural and Tourism Promotion Launching Ceremony.
The promotional event had the specific purposes of “tourism shaped by culture, culture shaped by tourism” and two themes were highlighted: the “Historical Canal Tour” and the “Exploring Museums Tour”. The themes were presented in eight locations respectively, namely Beijing, Shandong Province, Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang Province, Hubei Province, Sichuan Province, Chongqing city and Hong Kong, introducing new itineraries and tourism products to industrial representatives and media in Hong Kong and Macao through online and offline channels.
During the event, Zhang Xu, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China; Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, Secretary for the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau of Hong Kong SAR Government; and Lei Wai Nong, Secretary for Economy and Finance of Macao SAR Government, presented video speeches. Also, the “First Half of 2022 Hong Kong and Macao Inbound Tourism Market Research Report” was released during the event, helping to boost the recovery of Hong Kong and Macao’s inbound tourism markets following the pandemic.
Organised by Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) over the years, the Macao Light Festival is rebranded as “Bright up Macao 2022” and will dazzle the city with 3D mapping shows this December. Between 2nd and 31st August, MGTO is holding an open call for the event’s “3D mapping projects”, to effectively boost the development of “tourism + culture and creativity” by demonstrating the potential of local cultural and creative activities and by adding value to the nighttime tourism brand events.
MGTO invites members of the arts and tourism sectors to serve on the judging panel. Five outstanding entries will be selected by the panel and then displayed on MGTO’s website for visitors and residents to enjoy without any time or geographical restrictions. The judging panel will select the most stunning work which will be displayed on the façade of the China Products Company during the “Bright up Macao 2022”.
Interested applicants can register and upload their entries online. Details will be available on the MGTO’s Macao Tourism Industry Net from 2nd August: https://industry.macaotourism.gov.mo.
In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, the tourism industry has proactively mobilised resources to assist the SAR government in its prevention and control work by supplying more hotel rooms for medical observation, supporting the citywide testing programme, providing assistance to lodge non-resident workers stranded in the city, implementing different work strategies for its staff and launch initiatives such as takeaway offers where local people can order food from hotel restaurants. This has all been done in order to support and co-operate with the government’s epidemic prevention measures and to contribute to the strict control and maximum suppression strategy of “dynamic zero COVID-19” that’s intended to contain the outbreak.
Quarantine rooms are added to the cause
The hotel industry in Macao offered more hotel rooms and facilities to the cause for medical observation purposes to meet the increased demand due to the outbreak. The Parisian Macao, Lisboeta Macau, Grand Lisboa Palace Resort Macau’s East Wing, Grand Hyatt Macau’s B1 Tower, Studio City’s Celebrity Tower and the Broadway Macau have been used as medical observation hotels. The England Marina Club Hotel and the Sheraton Grand Macao’s Earth Tower have been used to quarantine positive nucleic acid test cases. The Rocks Hotel has been offering rooms to people with a “yellow” health code since early last month.
These new added hotels provided by the industry since June to cope with the demand to curb the outbreak, were added to the establishments already in use as designated and optional hotels for general and special medical observation: Pousada Marina Infante Hotel, Grand Coloane Resort, Sheraton Grand Macao (Sky Tower), Treasure Hotel and Regency Art Hotel.
Macao’s mass nucleic acid testing programme garners wide support
The tourism industry - including major tourism operators like Galaxy Entertainment Group, Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited, Sands China Limited, SJM Resorts, S.A. and Wynn Macau Limited - has been actively providing its support to the government-launched citywide nucleic acid testing programme. The tourism businesses have organised volunteer teams to assist staff at several COVID-19 nucleic acid testing stations in terms of registrations, reservations and directing people who arrive to be tested. The volunteers have also helped individuals with mobility problems at the stations.
MGM China Holdings Limited has not only organised volunteers to support the testing programme, but have also set up a care hotline whereby volunteers stay at home and speak, via phone or video calls, with elderly, vulnerable or lonely people who are not able to get out due to the continuing epidemic prevention measures. Some of the city’s tourism resorts and businesses, as well as the Macau International Airport, have been providing venues for the stations, so as to avoid crowds gathering in one place.
Assistance to lodge non-resident workers stranded in the city
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 in Macao has caused many non-resident workers to stay in the city over the past few weeks. The Macau Hoteliers & Innkeepers Association and the China Capital Employment Agencies Association (Macao) have worked with tourism businesses like hotels, restaurants and travel services to ensure the timely provision of accommodation, food and transport to those non-resident employees who are in need. Prices have been at concessionary rates and there have been assurances that these prices will not increase throughout the duration of the epidemic.
Macao tourism-related businesses use different staffing strategies during the outbreak
In response to the government’s suspension of all non-essential business activities between 11th and 23rd July, a number of enterprises have arranged for some employees stay at home, and have taken an array of other measures to ensure the safety of those employees who need to go to work. For example, employees are arranged to work from home or adopt staggered working hours. Special working individuals are required to conduct rapid antigen testing and hold valid negative results before going to work.
Hotel restaurants launch takeaway offers for Macao diners
Dining-in options at Macao’s restaurants have been suspended since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the city, so similar to other restaurants around town some hotel eateries have responded by offering takeaway deals. Under the scheme, restaurants are providing catering services to customers by offering free deliveries or discounts for takeaways.
The Statistics and Census Service (DSEC) has released statistics related to Macao’s tourism industry for the first half of 2022, showing that there were 3,465,107 inbound tourists who arrived in the city between January and June, down 11.8% year-on-year. July is expected to continue to mark a steep decline in Macao’s visitor arrivals due to the outbreak, with August slated to already see a rebound as the COVID-19 situation in Macao stabilises.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak on 18th June, the Zhuhai-Macao ports tightened entry and departure measures, so the number of inbound travellers to Macao dropped to 380,671 visits in June, a decrease of 28% year-on-year.
Looking back over the first half of the year, the average length of stay decreased by 0.4 days to 1.2 days per year, while the average length of stay increased by 0.1 days to three days per year, recording 1,284,281 visits (-37.6%). The average length of stay for non-overnight travellers remained the same at 0.1 days, recording 2,180,826 visits (+16.7%).
Tourism Price Index dropped in first half with accommodation prices falling the most
The DSEC also indicated that the Tourist Price Index (TPI) in the first half of this year dropped by 0.38% year-on-year, with the price index of accommodation (-9.10%) falling the most.
The TPI reflects the price change of goods and services purchased by visitors. According to the DSEC, the TPI dropped by 1.77% year-on-year to 114.87 in the second quarter of this year. The decrease was “mainly attributable to lower hotel room rates”, as well as “reduced prices of handbags and watches”. The average TPI score for the past four quarters up to the second quarter of this year increased by 0.31% from the previous period. The price indices of entertainment and cultural activities increased by 13.21% and the TPI score for restaurant services rose by 3.41%. The indices of accommodation and clothing decreased by 6.22% and 2.72% respectively.