Posted on: August 31, 2022, 12:40h.
Last updated on: August 31, 2022, 02:37h.
Macau is opening its borders to nonresidents for the first time since isolating the Chinese casino hub soon after COVID-19 became a global pandemic.
Macau closed its borders to nonresidents in early 2020. Though certain exceptions have been provided for frontline health care workers and foreigners whose family members reside in Macau, the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) today remains accessible only to citizens of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Beginning this Thursday, Sept. 1, Macau will allow nonresidents from 41 countries entry. But before a foreigner can play a baccarat table or slot machine inside one of the region’s many casinos, they will first be required to undergo seven days of medical observation in a government-approved quarantine hotel.
Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng lifted the ban on foreigners through Executive Order No. 166/2022. The decree allows travelers from 41 countries entry into the SAR, including those from the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
“Foreign passport holders are still required to present a negative nucleic acid test certificate at the time of boarding the plane, vehicle, or ship and at the time of entry,” the Macau Health Bureau explained of Ho’s order.
Those arriving from countries and regions other than the mainland, Hong Kong, or Taiwan will need to present a negative coronavirus test at the border gate, plus a confirmation for a hotel quarantine booking.
All travelers must additionally show border patrols an appointment booking to undergo another COVID-19 test at some point during their isolation period. The Health Bureau labeled the quarantine as “seven days of intensive medical observation in isolation,” followed by three days of “self-health management.”
Ho announcing the resumption of international travel in and out of Macau is the most welcomed news for the six commercial casino operators in town. Gaming has been nearly nonexistent in 2022, as a major outbreak on the mainland earlier this year — followed by Macau’s most rampant spread over the summer — has kept the SAR’s multibillion-dollar integrated resorts nearly lifeless.
Through July 2022, gross gaming revenue (GGR) totaled $3.28 billion. That’s about $3.7 billion less than what the companies won during the same seven months in 2021. For a meaningful gaming recovery to commence, Macau casinos need many more patrons.
In pre-pandemic 2019, Macau welcomed more than 39.4 million visitors. That number dropped below 5.9 million in 2021 before rebounding slightly to 7.7 million guests last year. Macau welcomed less than 3.5 million travelers this year through July.
In part of its commitment to Beijing to vaccinate as many people as possible, Macau is making COVID-19 vaccines available to travelers arriving from the mainland. Macau health officials will be available to administer BioNTech’s mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine.
While the vaccines are free for Chinese citizens, doses are also available for people traveling to Macau from foreign countries. But those jabs will come at a cost of 1,000 patacas ($125).
The vaccines are available at the Macau University Hospital. The facility is located just off of the Cotai Strip and near several high-profile casinos, including Wynn Palace, MGM Cotai, and City of Dreams.