Posted on: October 31, 2022, 09:45h. 

Last updated on: October 31, 2022, 04:02h.

Macau is nearly 8,000 miles from the United States, and for weary investors of the publicly traded commercial gaming operators who continue to hold out for a market recovery, the rebound timeline remains a mystery.

Macau visa IVS China COVID-19
A visitor walks inside Macau Tower overlooking downtown Macau. The casino hub is battling another COVID-19 outbreak, but China nonetheless plans to reinstitute online visa processing for travel to Macau beginning Nov. 1, 2022. (Image: Reuters)

The latest news out of what was the world’s richest gaming hub before the pandemic is a bit baffling.

Macau is battling another spread of confirmed coronavirus infections. Health officials in the region say at least eight people have tested positive for COVID-19 since October 28. The cluster outbreak prompted Macau to order each of its approximately 700K residents to undergo daily self-administered COVID-19 rapid antigen tests and upload their results online via the Macau Health Code app.

The daily testing is to run through at least November 1.

MGM Cotai remains on lockdown after a table game dealer tested positive over the weekend. Staff and guests are isolated in place inside the casino resort.

E-Visa Resumption

Though Macau government officials continue to wrangle with the region’s latest wave of new COVID-19 cases within the enclave’s borders, news out of mainland China suggests an imminent easing of pandemic-related travel protocols.

China continues to follow its “zero-COVID” policy that institutes draconian response measures to new infections. That includes the temporary cessation of certain travel and the guidance of avoiding non-essential activities.

Macau, being a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic under the “one country, two systems” policy arrangement, has followed China’s “zero-COVID” strategy for more than two-and-a-half years. But despite battling an outbreak, albeit a small one as of now with less than 10 cases, China and Macau are apparently ready to make it much easier for mainlanders to venture into the casino city.

Effective November 1, China will resume its electronic visa system — commonly known as the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS). On Tuesday, Chinese residents will be able to access the online visa system and begin applying for permits to travel to Macau.

The People’s Republic says the resumption of the travel pass processing system is due to high demand, and the country and SAR believe COVID-19 is relatively contained at the current time.

To enhance convenience for mainland China residents applying for travel permits to visit Macao, the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China will from Nov. 1, 2022, commence operating the smart-travel permit application system throughout the country,” an official statement from the Macau Government Information Bureau said today.

“On behalf of the Macau Special Administrative Region Government, the Chief Executive Mr. Ho Iat Seng has expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Central Government and relevant ministries and departments for their full support on the matter,” the statement added.

Major Lifeline

Macau’s six casino operators continue to bleed money while keeping their integrated resorts open and employees on the clock, as urged by the local government, despite the region experiencing little visitation from mainlanders.

In 2019, when Macau welcomed 27.9 million visitors, about 47% of those travelers gained access by way of an e-visa through the IVS program.

“The chief executive said that the measure would offer greater convenience to mainland China residents who apply for travel permits to visit Macau, thus contributing to the recovery of Macao’s economy and its tourism industry,” the SAR statement concluded.