Macau scraps casino coronavirus test certificates

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
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A coronavirus test certificate is no longer required to enter Macau casinos, GGR Asia reports.

From midnight, March 3, people wishing to enter Macau casino floors will no longer need to show a test certificate proving they are free of COVID-19 infection.

The rule where all individuals from mainland China arriving in Macau must have a negative nucleic acid test report issued within seven days of arrival, stays in place, authorities said.

A number of investment analysts had suggested that the COVID-19 test requirement for entry to Macau itself and the duration of the test certificate validity was an inhibiting factor for would-be tourists to Macau from mainland China.

The mainland is currently the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel bubble with Macau.

DS Kim, an analyst at the JP Morgan banking group said in a note that dropping the need for the test certificate might be a “tiny step toward further easing” of restrictions on the market.

But he observed: “Since those entering Macau from China would already have negative test results anyway, the rule change is unlikely to affect inbound demand.”

But the change would probably “help revise demand” from “local” players, who had been “nearly absent since mid-July,” he added.

Brokerage Sanford C Bernstein said in a Wednesday memo that “Macau locals play is likely two to three per cent of gross gaming revenue in the market”.

Analysts Vitaly Umansky, Tianjiao Yu and Louis Li described dropping the COVID-19 test requirements for casino entry as a “positive step forward on the path to normalcy, but we do not see any border changes forthcoming in the immediate near-term.”

The local authorities had introduced the COVID-19 test certificate rule for casino entry with effect from July 15.

Factors affecting the decision to ease the COVID-19 test rule for casino access included, said the local government, the ongoing “strict compliance” with COVID-19 countermeasures on casino floors.

That included: self-certification of individuals’ health via the local online health code system in order to access casino floors; use of protective face masks; introduction of separating barriers between players; and social distance rules ensuring reasonable distancing between all those inside casinos.

The Macau government said also contributing to the decision to cancel the COVID-19 test certificate requirement, was the fact that the epidemic risk in mainland China had been “significantly reduced” since mid-February.

Currently, there are no areas in mainland China of “medium or high incidence” of COVID-19 infection “for at least 10 consecutive days, nor local transmission for 24 consecutive days”.

Macau seeks return of e-visa scheme with China 

Macau is working with China to reintroduce its Individual Visit Scheme e-visa program that allows Chinese residents to visit the city with ease.

Calvin Ayre reported in February that the program has been on hold since January 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and previous attempts to relaunch the system haven’t been successful.

The e-visa is essentially an electronic method of filing for an Individual Visa Scheme, but anyone from the Chinese mainland who wants to visit Macau now has to apply in person.

As a result, in many cases, it can take up to two weeks for an application to be approved, but the e-visa option provides approval for same-day travel.

Maria Helene de Senna Fernandes, the direction of the Macau Government Tourism Office said: “Mainland visitors have to apply for IVS in person, so we keep fighting for the resumption of IVS e-visa with the mainland government.”

Any recovery for Macau is dependent on the relaunch of the e-visa program, which Sanford C Bernstein analysts said during its weekly Macau update.

“We expect visitation to increase only slowly over the next months, assuming travel restrictions due to COVID-19 are not increased.

“The key jump in visitors will come when visa processing switches back to digital and the same day, which may take some time. We are not likely to see material alleviation of bottlenecks in the near term.”

The director of the Macau Government Tourism Office is remaining positive that Macau can get on track, but acknowledges that diversification in its activities will be the key to its success going forward.

This echoes plans that have been in the works recently for Macau to become a global tourism hotspot for everyone, not just gamblers, and Senna Fernandes added: “What we should do in the future is to attract visitors to stay longer in Macau rather than chasing the numbers.

“We should increase attractions in Macau and we hope that package tours from the mainland will be resumed soon.”

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