Macau, the Asian gambling hub, has announced a two-week ban on any inbound passenger flights from outside of China after three coronavirus cases were found in passengers arriving from overseas.
The move came the same day Hong Kong banned flights from eight nations and ramped up social distancing measures, leaving the two neighbouring Chinese territories even more cut off from the rest of the world.
Like mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau have maintained some of the world’s harshest measures throughout the pandemic – including virtually closed borders, weeks-long quarantines, targeted lockdowns and mass testing.
Macau’s Health Bureau announced on Wednesday it would prohibit “civil aircraft from carrying passengers from places outside China to Macau” for two weeks starting midnight on Sunday.
Macau bars non-residents from entering the city, while residents returning from outside of China have to quarantine for at least 21 days, similar to Hong Kong’s rules.
Asymptomatic Covid Cases
Health officials on Wednesday identified three imported asymptomatic cases in Macau, related to travellers from the UK and the Philippines.
The former Portuguese colony has recorded only 79 confirmed coronavirus cases – using the mainland’s tallying method that excludes asymptomatic patients – and no deaths.
In August, Macau ordered compulsory coronavirus testing for all 680,000 residents after a family of four was found with the Delta variant, breaking the city’s 16-month streak of being virus-free.
Macau has also adopted mainland China’s health app, which rates infection risk, tracks movement and generates test and vaccination records.
Once a multibillion dollar industry, gambling in Macau has been decimated by regulatory crackdowns and the pandemic.
Rating agencies have put most casino groups on a negative watch, with Fitch saying there needs to be “greater clarity around Macau‘s gaming concession re-bidding process and the new regulatory structure’s impact to operator balance sheets and cash flows”.
- AFP with additional editing by George Russell