Travellers from all parts of the country – including the mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan region – inbound to Macao are no longer required to present any nucleic acid test certificate to enter the city. The relaxation of epidemic-control travel measures was expected to boost the number of visitors to Macao, which in turn could help spur local economic recovery, stated the Chief Executive, Mr Ho Iat Seng.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday (12 January), Mr Ho said the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) Government was in close contact with the mainland authorities regarding the resumption of package tours to Macao. A date for the resumption of such trade was dependent on the epidemic situation in the four provinces and one city to be initially covered by the measure. In a first phase, only people coming from Guangdong Province, Zhejiang Province, Jiangsu Province, Fujian Province or Shanghai Municipality would be eligible to take part in tour groups traveling from the mainland to Macao.
Mr Ho said that he believed that package tours would be allowed to resume soon, after the current peak of the epidemic had passed. Such course of action was also with the aim to protect the health of the Macao public, he added.
The Chief Executive said the MSAR Government had been providing to the population COVID-19 vaccines and essential medication, in order to safeguard the health of the Macao public. The MSAR Government had procured bivalent COVID-19 vaccines and hoped that members of the public would get vaccinated if they had not already taken a first jab, or get a booster shot at the earliest opportunity. Regarding the supply of medicines to Macao, the MSAR Government had imposed purchase limits on certain medicines, in a bid to ensure enough supply to those in need.
Macao had adhered to the latest epidemic policies adopted by the country, said Mr Ho. Compulsory nucleic acid testing and other measures were no longer in place. Declaration to the authorities regarding COVID-19 infection was now done on a voluntary basis. Therefore, the MSAR Government was not able to provide a precise figure for the aggregate number of people that had so far been infected with the coronavirus. A general estimate suggested that at least 70 percent of the Macao population had already been infected with COVID-19. Persons that had recovered from COVID-19 recently should have sufficient antibodies to protect them for a certain period of time, hence the likelihood of Macao facing a new, severe local outbreak in the near future should be relatively low, stated the Chief Executive.
Mr Ho said additionally that elderly people staying in care centres, who had higher vaccination rates compared to those living in their own homes, had managed to better overcome the latest wave of the epidemic. This had proven that vaccination against COVID-19 had provided personal health benefits. The Chief Executive urged the Macao public either to get vaccinated as soon as possible, or to get a booster shot, in order to protect themselves from infection.
When asked about the pressure faced by the city’s healthcare system during the recent outbreak, Mr Ho said construction of the Islands District Medical Complex had recently been completed. Once the new structure was in operation, the number of available medical facilities and medical staff would double. There would also be a team from the Peking Union Medical College Hospital providing support to Macao’s healthcare service.
In other comments, the Chief Executive mentioned the MSAR Government was maintaining its estimate for city-wide casino gross gaming revenue for 2023 to reach 130 billion patacas, as stated in the budget for the current fiscal year. That goal meant average monthly gross gaming revenue of more than 10 billion patacas.
Mr Ho also said that if there was no longer a budget deficit, the government would restart injecting fresh funds into the city’s central provident fund. The Government had no plans to launch further rounds of the consumption benefit scheme and would closely monitor the city’s economic recovery, he added.